Thinking about online food delivery services

I’ve been asked many times if some types of startups can work in the Malaysian marketplace. So here’s a quick braindump on delivery services.

When I lived in Melbourne, a bad day was when you had to call Dominos for pizza delivery. I much rather ordered food from the multiple pizza parlours nearby. I wasn’t limited to them either: delivery of Chinese or Indian food was always available, just a phone call away. It was always useful when you didn’t want to leave the house or fire up the car.

This in turn helped the local economy grow further. Delivery boys were hired, and many were probably studying. Independent retailers were cherished.

In London today, I see an ad on the tube for They claim access to over 3,000 delivery menus. If you get their app, you get 20% off your first order as a new customer who saw their “tube” ad (incidentally the voucher code). Naturally they are on the Apple AppStore & Google Play Store.

Just look at that number: 3,000 delivery menus.

I’m sure you can’t get all that delivered to you no matter where in London you lived, but you probably do have a good chunk to access. I’d say restaurants within a 20 minute driving/riding radius from your location.

London has 6 zones that are covered on a tube line. I never stay out of zone 1 when I come to visit. However friends do live out at zone 3 even and you’ll enjoy seeing a grocery store, restaurants, and banks in every neighbourhood.

This was similar to how Melbourne was planned. Again, I never ventured out of zone 1, though for a period of time I did live at the border of zone 2. Every local area I was at, was served well.

The Klang Valley isn’t planned this way, with a lot more connections reliant on lengthy highways. This is probably why food delivery services that started pre-Web-hype usually focused on areas like Bangsar/PJ, KL, etc. (See Room Service delivery who probably pioneered this in Malaysia). They have their riders, they have their usual restaurants within similar areas, and they service you as a third party.

Suburbia is a lot more prevalent within the Klang Valley. Just venture into Alam Damai (Cheras) or Kota Kemuning and you’ll soon realise that you’ve hit true suburbia with services that are very lacking.

It is there that you will have to order Dominos. Or Pizza Hut. Or McDonalds.

Those are brands that are synonymous with delivery & take out.

Can this change? Will local ‘kedai runcit’ stores (or the milk bars) figure out delivery makes sense? Is it too far fetched to order a garlic & cheese naan, with some tandoori chicken & a Milo with cows milk for delivery? Or a nice claypot fish congee?

Delivery order minimums may play into things but if memory serves, all I had to hit was AUD$10 before I could trigger a complimentary delivery.

So, back to Malaysia and getting food delivered to your home/office, from places that are 20-30 minutes away. What’s available today:

  1. Room Service which pioneered this in Malaysia (I think) wants RM20, with RM12-20 delivery fees (source)
  2. foodpanda from Rocket Internet. 60 minutes delivery time, RM4-6 delivery fee, RM10-15 minimum order value

In the US, there seems to be GrubHub, Eat24, etc. In the UK, there’s Just Eat, niftynosh, etc.

What about payments? Room Service accepts visa/master/amex or cash.

The next time I have some time in Malaysia, I probably will give Room Service or foodpanda a try. Just to see how it works. I do see that their delivery areas are limited, which is naturally sad as it doesn’t cover the whole Klang Valley.

Can this work in Malaysia? Do people eat-in that often? How do you fix the location issue? When do we see more of the middlemen being cut out? Is it a good idea to go into business as a middleman like Room Service/foodpanda? How does this dynamic work when people don’t leave their homes, i.e. staying with their families even after marriage?

I don’t have the answers, and apparently this hasn’t been cracked since 2003 (when roomservice started).


  1. David Baker says:

    I use Room Service but think the delivery fee is too high to use it for more than special occasions.

    • colincharles says:

      This is what I figured out is the problem. Delivery fees almost never make sense. This is why elsewhere, the business itself has built-in delivery. This middleman business is what’s happening in Malaysia, which is kind of annoying.

      foodpanda seems ok at RM4, so i’m going to give it a try soon

  2. Lots of improvement from the Room Service guys lately. And better off, when I get my food via the deal site (they merged with MyDEAL, I guess?). Seeing a lot of their deals on the site these days.. I just buy them off there. :P