Friday, August 18, 2017

Myanmar weighs in on booming online food shops

Myanmar's online food shops have become very popular among the country’s millions of Internet users, giving restaurants and street food shops a run for their money.

As the internet has become widely used in Myanmar, people have taken to online shopping, importing clothes and accessories mainly from Thailand and Singapore as well as dried or fried food, snacks and recipes using social media.

According to a survey by the Myanmar ICT Development Organisation (MIDO) conducted in June, almost 14 million Myanmar people aged 18 to 64 use Facebook.

“Of course, the number of food sellers on social media has increased. Crab recipes are selling like hotcakes,” Khine Su Wai, who has sold hotpot and crab recipes online for the past year and a half, told Weekend.

People order food online when the food is not easy to make or when they are too lazy to cook. One can get special food online anytime they want, especially when it’s raining or when it’s inconvenient to go out to eat.

Yuzana Khin, an avid online shopper who started purchasing knick-knacks in 2014 then graduated to ordering food online, said buying food online is similar to buying food at a restaurant.

“For example, Mote Hninn Karr - the traditional Myanmar soup sold in almost every shop - does not always taste good, even in a well-known shop,” she said. “It’s the same when you order food online. I try once, and I continue ordering and sharing with friends if it is good. If not, I don’t order again.”

“I’ ve receive many defective things when I order online, but not food. Most of the food I order online is good and tasty,” said Yuzana Khin, who said she always checks customer reviews and feedback for an online shop before she places an order.

But 46-year-old Richard, who likes to find and eat good food at restaurants, is wary.

“Ordering food online is similar to testing my luck. I prefer to eat outside where I can see and smell the food being cooked. Reviews? Some people may write reviews in exchange for something,” he told Weekend.

He is not the only one. Food blogger Show Show Aung also prefers to eat out rather than order food online.

“Online shops cannot maintain the quality of the taste and cannot take the pressure when they have a lot of orders. I have never heard of online shops being run by an organisation but rather by families. It is a good business for a family but not for a long-term business,” he said.

Despite the mixed reactions, Htike Htike Aung, executive director of MIDO, said there is a big potential for online food sales.

“The cost of opening an online shop is low, so the price of food will be cheap, and they can offer door-to-door delivery, which is an added convenience for customers who do not want to go out to enjoy their favourite food. It also supports the family business.”

She said it is a win-win situation for the food shops and the consumer.

“Consumers can check the feedback easily via Facebook, which will provide more incentive for online food shops to offer better service,” she said.

Zin Min Htet, who operates an online food shop, said it is not necessarily true that prices at restaurants are higher than at online shops.

“At some restaurants, the food costs more because of expensive decorations and ingredients. But I also see food from online shops that are expensive, maybe because of their wages,” Zin Min Htet, who also sells crab recipes online, said.

Both online food shops and restaurants have to charge 5 percent sales tax and 5pc to 10pc service fee on top of the price of food, according to Kywe Kywe Ohn.

“It is really bad that the cost of delivery is the same amount as the price of the food I want to eat. Only when you order a lot, is it a better deal,” Kywe Kywe Ohn said.

If you want to order online food, be sure to check the customer reviews, especially those of friends and relatives, so that you can get not only tasty food but the best value for your money.