Expanded delivery services make staying at home easier

Expanded delivery services make staying at home easier
The raw ingredients for UCook meal 2 – Greek chicken with orzo. Photo: Bianca Coleman

The government has begged us not to leave our homes unless it’s an emergency. Getting food supplies is quite important, we admit, but there are multiple ways to have these essential goods brought to your doorstep, from raw to ready-made.

Asher at Buy Fresh is relentless, and I regret ever registering on the website. I only did it to look for fresh cream, which at the time I couldn’t find anywhere.

For the first week or so, Asher at Buy Fresh (who is co-founder and CEO although I have my doubts he is the one actually writing these annoying emails) slid into my mailbox daily to remind me of my first-time user discount. I wasn’t too interested in the R50 off, because R50 off nothing is still nothing (and the prices there were a tad out of my budget). On the sixth day of nagging, I clicked through to the site. It wouldn’t load. At all. The entire day. I fired back a snarky email to “Asher at Buy Fresh” to which there has never been a reply.

All of this happened about 10 days ago, when I was younger and full of hope. So much has changed, so fast, in the food industry during lockdown, and will probably continue to morph and flow as the days go by. And not only because the regulations are so blurry at the moment, nobody really knows what’s going on or whether they are disobeying regulations or not.

Apparently it’s relatively easy now to download and fill in an online application for a permit to trade if your service or products are deemed essential. However, it does not guarantee you won’t land up on the wrong side of the law (as JP Scholtz from The Lawns restaurant found out the hard way on 12 April 12 because of a technicality. Abusing the permits for essential trading carries harsh consequences. Heck, a Cape Town woman was chased down and arrested by several cops for walking her dog.

So a fortnight ago, in another lifetime, we had two choices: go to the shops, dodge the road blocks, queue, wear masks and get sprayed down with sanitiser at the supermarket entrance; or take our chances with online deliveries. With most retailers having a two-week or longer waiting list, and having to decide today whether you want tomatoes or not in the distant future, it was not ideal.

A third option was – and is – delivered meal kits. This service cracked the nod from the get-go, as it delivers raw ingredients to your home, and not ready-made hot meals (for collection or through platforms like Uber Eats), which were banned in the first week of lockdown. 

With the issuing of the permits to trade, the floodgates have opened and you can have just about anything delivered – in terms of groceries, produce, charcuterie, vegan stuff, baked goods, freezer meals – without having to go the big retail chain route, with long waiting periods. We can now support small businesses too, which is wonderful.

“Since the lockdown restrictions we’ve had to move from focusing on wholesale and hospitality customers to interacting directly with our customers,” said Richard Bosman of Richard Bosman Quality Cured Meats, which you could previously buy at the Oranjezicht City Farm Market, which is closed until further notice (it delivers various boxes from its traders as well, if you can afford them). 

“We have a new online ordering platform and our ordering app is due to go live this week. It’s great to interact directly with our customers but does add a logistical complexity to the business,” said Bosman.

Richard Bosman’s top quality charcuterie can be delivered to your door (or driveway, or lobby). Photo: Supplied

“We are busy collaborating with other online delivery services such as UCook, Buy Fresh, Wild Organics and Nomu. I do think even after the restrictions are lifted online shopping will become part of many people’s routines. 

“Sadly a lot of our hospitality customers may never reopen after the lockdown ends.” 

Existing apps have quickly been adapted to meet the new demands, and same-day delivery is a reality. 

But caveat emptor – most of these come with a hefty price tag. An online order from Pick n Pay is R60, for a time slot somewhere on the distant horizon; its collaboration with the Bottles app (which can obviously not operate because of the booze ban) will bring your shopping today for R45 and a service fee of R15. So, the same. Via Bottles, you can shop more than 1,500 products at in-store prices and buy up to 30 different products in one order (limits may apply per product).

Checkers has Sixty60, and there are other apps that will send someone running around to a whole bunch of shops to get you what you want – OneCart, for example, and Zulzi. I tried the latter (still searching for cream) and the result was mixed.

After placing my order, a human called (I’d asked to be contacted by text) to tell me he couldn’t get the coffee I wanted. Okay, fine, we swopped it for another one. The delivery was scheduled for the next day, but about an hour later, there was Matthew at my gate with my shopping. Giddy with the excitement of it all, I only noticed the problems later.

The cream was 250ml, not 500ml (I called Matthew back and he said sorry, they didn’t have it, which he could have, should have told me); the coffee we had discussed was 250g not 500g and rubbish value for money; and the till slip included in the carrier bag showed my almond flour to be around R30 less than what had been invoiced, and billed to my card already.

The delivery charge was R50, and there were two service fees: R25.20 on the first order, and another R16.94 when I decided to add the almond flour (all from the same shop, by the way). It was probably the single most ridiculously expensive and reckless bag of groceries I’ve ever bought. I’ll own my part in it – I was lazy, and I could have not used the app, but let my foolishness be a warning. Also, I have not yet been refunded for the price differences, nor has my complaint been acknowledged. 

Another app which adapted to the situation with alacrity is Uber Eats. Instead of restaurants, it quickly amended its platform to grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies (excluding scripts) and frozen meal options, which are available for delivery with a fee of R25 (sometimes a bit less, depending on the distance). It can be as basic as cool drinks from the corner café to boxes of amazing fresh produce from the likes of Lapo’s Kitchen.

Lapo’s kitchen produce. Photo: Supplied

“Partnering with essential service providers across South Africa, to help deliver everyday items will allow people to stay at home and help flatten the curve of community spread. Safety is essential to Uber and it’s at the heart of everything we do – all deliveries requested through Uber Eats are contactless, meaning users can have deliveries left on their doorstep. We remain in close contact with the local public health authorities and stand ready to provide additional support as required,” said Ailyssa Pretorius, Uber Eats general manager.

Interested businesses who want to join the Uber Eats marketplace to deliver a smaller range of essential items within an hour can use this link.

“We work closely with our partners to ensure their relationship with Uber is set up for success and to ensure they follow the necessary health and safety guidelines from the government, from helping them get their business ready for delivery, right the way through to providing continuous feedback to ensure they are maximising their operations on the Uber Eats app,” said Pretorius.

Included in our vocabulary is the phrase “the new normal” and there’s an overwhelming sense of things never going back to the way they were, but being reinvented, which is not necessarily a bad thing. “We are always looking to expand opportunities for businesses in South Africa. Uber has built a logistics platform that can become the foundation for new businesses. We’re excited to use the global growth of Uber Eats and discover how we can use those learnings from the lockdown for future businesses, such as grocery delivery,” said Pretorius. 

Lapo’s Kitchen as we knew it, with its social evening events, has come to a halt and unfortunately this will be for a long and unforeseeable time, said Lapo Magni. 

“Most likely this will bankrupt the business and therefore I have to try change my business model to a distribution and production of foods. My business is not allowed but I was fortunate to partner up with Karla Hart who runs a local café called Seed & Circus and we have been able to operate from there. Karla has exactly the same kind of views as I do, and we synergise well together in the supply of local, fresh organic or pesticide-free products to our community,” said Magni.

To this end, boxes in two sizes, filled with fresh produce of local and seasonal vegetables and fruits from trusted suppliers, and other pantry items, can be delivered to your door.

“These are farmers that I have been supporting and buying from for my social dining events,” said Magni. “This week’s box for example, has beautiful produce such as juvenile daikon radish, carrots, sweet potatoes, incredible frying peppers called Habanata, exotic aubergines called Bride, mangos, pomegranate, figs, chillis, and purple basil. 

“We have fresh tagliatelle and ravioli and ragu, and beautiful cheese and other lovely deli products.”

Uber Eats can deliver this in about half an hour, within a limited area for now (look up Alimentari) said Magni, and personal delivery can be arranged on the same day. “Soon we will partner up with third party delivery services and will have our e-commerce web site and shop.”

Boxes are about R300 for medium, and R500 for large, which are among the more reasonable prices I’ve seen. Once a week, Magni will go live on Instagram to demonstrate a recipe using some of that week’s box.

“The future ahead of us looks different; I am not scared of it,” said Magni. “I am aware humanity needs to make a huge shift and this Covid-19 chaos is forcing it upon us, therefore you can look at it with hope that when things settle we will be better off than we were before all of this started,” he smiled.

Aside from fresh produce, whether it’s delivered or harvested myself at the supermarket while politely keeping my distance from other shoppers, I have to confess to having acquired a penchant for having food brought to me. On the eve of lockdown, I had coq au vin from EasyCook (by Brad Ball, who said he wanted to apply for a licence but because he’s a sole proprietor, the system wouldn’t allow him to complete the application because he didn’t have the correct documents, business licence etc); and a delicious chicken and leek curry from Pronto Mama (and a litre of beef stroganoff pasta sauce which is in the freezer, with two more portions of that coq au vin). 

I love UCook (but I hate all the plastic, and my recycling service isn’t deemed essential, shame). It’s forced me out of my cooking comfort zone with new recipes to try. You see, I’m that person filled with good intentions who collects recipes off the internet, and has shelves filled with glorious cookbooks and food porn, but ends up making the same tried and tested things over and over. I’ve been having a ball with new ideas and new ingredients I’d never otherwise tackle.

The first meal last week (and my favourite) was the Asian pork tenderloin, and my enthusiasm is clearly documented by the number of pictures of the process from beginning to end. Night two was the chicken, and the third was steak and butternut (with only one image of the finished dish). I was extremely proud at being able to turn out such respectable versions of the recipe cards, and they were all delicious. Let me put it another way: the portions are generous and I initially thought I would have leftovers for the next day’s lunch. Nope, I ate the whole lot for dinner. A further endorsement is that I would cook and eat them all again.

The UCook Asian pork tenderloin. Photo: Bianca Coleman

Greek chicken with orzo, and delicious ricotta pesto. Photo: Bianca Coleman

UCook pops little free gifts in its boxes which is cute, and you can mix and match dishes from three different categories (unlike Daily Dish, where you take what they give you, no wiggle room). Making up for all the plastic for every basil leaf or 10ml of mirin, UCook sources high-quality, organic ingredients from small-batch farmers.

Staying home and remaining well-fed is a privilege, make no mistake. DM/TGIFood


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