December 1, 2022

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Delivery business goes full throttle amid virus precautions in Beijing

A delivery worker picks up food from a restaurant in Beijing on May 2. [Photo/Agencies]

Takeout businesses boomed in Beijing during the May Day holiday, from April 30 to May 4, with dine-in services suspended.

All restaurants have been requested to suspend dine-in services since May 1 and offer takeouts instead, as the city fights the latest COVID-19 outbreak.

Despite a slump in footfall, both Meituan and Eleme, two leading food delivery service providers, reported a steep rise in takeout orders during the holiday.

Some catering businesses which had relied on eating-in earnings are turning their gaze on takeout to help recoup losses.

Data from Meituan showed that a total of 473 restaurants applied for takeout listings via its “green channel” on May 1, up 338 percent from the previous day.

From May 1-3, Beijing’s takeout orders grew more than 30 percent compared with the same period of 2021, according to Meituan.

A food deliveryman told the China Times newspaper that the number of orders he had delivered increased greatly during the holiday. His waiting time was shorter in the absence of in-store diners, so he can complete more orders.

Many restaurants served food packages to cater to people who planned to enjoy a meal with their friends or family.

Ready-to-cook dishes were also popular among consumers. Tech giant Alibaba’s Freshhema, a fresh food retailer that offers delivery, said its sales of pre-prepared meals during the holiday increased fivefold month-on-month.

“The partially prepared dishes are an ideal choice for young people like me who just have basic cooking skills but still want to make a big dinner. They can save a lot of time and trouble,” said a Beijing resident surnamed Huang in Haidian district.

To help ensure a stable supply of daily necessities during the five-day holiday, some delivery service platforms created incentive systems for employees and allocated more labor to key regions affected by COVID-19 resurgences, such as Chaoyang and Tongzhou districts.

Meituan, for example, offered a collective allowance of up to 8 million yuan ($1.2 million) as it called on all delivery workers available in Beijing to work during the holiday.

All delivery workers had to upload negative nucleic acid test results every day before they could take orders, as required by major delivery companies.

For those working in lockdown, controlled and precautionary zones, they had to take a COVID-19 antigen test and a nucleic acid test on a daily basis, according to the city government.

The capital has reported more than 500 COVID-19 infections since April 22 across 15 districts.

On May 5 when the May Day public holiday ended, Beijing began regular mass nucleic acid testing, free of charge. Residents should get tested once a week.