China’s Lunar New Year holiday is approaching and food delivery companies have been ramping up their orders as more people avoid travelling for family reunions over celebratory meals.
Ele.me, the country’s second largest food delivery platform, said that nearly 200 catering brands have offered Lunar New Year’s dinner sets on its platform as of Tuesday. Such services cover 5,000 offline restaurants, a 260 per cent increase compared with the same period last year. Ele.me is owned by Alibaba Group Holding, the parent company of the South China Morning Post.
Meituan said on Thursday that since January 15, the search volume for “Lunar New Year meals” on its food delivery platform Meituan Waimai increased 200 per cent compared with the same period last year.
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Billed as the world’s largest annual human migration, the Chinese Spring Festival is a time when people travel across the country for family reunions. Due to the resurgence of Covid-19 cases, however, the government has been discouraging movement and imposing strict Covid-19 control measures during the 40-day travel season.
Last week, authorities urged the public to go online to satisfy their needs for entertainment, shopping and festive meals. To make spending the holiday at home more appealing, tech companies have been encouraged to meet user demand.
The Ministry of Commerce also called on online food delivery platforms to connect with catering businesses, guarantee deliveries during the holidays, and encourage delivery drivers to spend the holidays in the cities where they work.
According to Meituan, about 70 per cent of restaurants have decided to stay open during the holiday season, in contrast to previous years when they were usually closed due to low customer turnout. The company previously announced it has earmarked 500 million yuan (US$77.8 million) for subsidies for delivery drivers who work during the seven-day festival.
Experts have noted that various online service providers are expected to benefit from the government’s latest measures. From January 20 to Wednesday, online retail sales in the country had surpassed 510 billion yuan (US$78.7 billion) and online catering sales saw 40 per cent year-on-year growth during the same period, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
But the rapid rise of the online food delivery trend, driven by holiday demand, has not been without hiccups.
On Wednesday, market supervision authorities in China’s northwest Gansu province summoned Meituan, Ele.me and other food delivery companies to warn them about issues such as food safety, protecting the rights of consumers and delivery workers, as well as unfair competition.
Other cities in China have also launched inspections and initiatives focused on standardising the food delivery business and ensuring food safety.
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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
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