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Google Pay's new feature supports local food vendors by connecting them to customers directly for free

Google Pay's new feature supports local food vendors by connecting them to customers directly for free
PHOTO: AsiaOne / Ilyas Sholihyn

It should go without saying that Covid-19 has hit Singapore’s food and beverage industry pretty hard. 

With food being a driving force in the country’s economy and culture (enough to spark regional feuds), the circuit breaker has made it a wee bit tougher to indulge in the national hobby: snitching finding the next best makan hotspot. 

As makers of a search engine that compiles the world’s information, Google has got you covered. The Google Pay app has added an isolation-friendly feature that lets users browse the menus of 250 eateries (and counting) across the island.

If they fancy the food, users can choose their dishes directly on the app, which will compose the order and list the total cost. The app will then let users complete the order by offering the options of either calling the vendor by phone or sending the list to them through WhatsApp, and also choosing to pick up their order or arrange a courier. 

It seems like a complicated process, but it isn't. Discovering eateries nearby, skimming through food options, and placing orders are isolated within the Google Pay app, and one doesn’t have to scramble and search for vendor contact numbers. 

But what about the glut of other established food delivery apps like Grab, Deliveroo, and Foodpanda, you may ask. They’ve got a way easier process to order food — just make your selection, make your payment, and wait for the nosh to arrive.

Ordering stuff via Google Pay seems more of a hassle since it involves customers directly liaising with food operators to hash out delivery arrangements and payment procedures. Plus, the whole thing involves extra steps that nobody wants to deal with in the midst of a hunger pang. 

Google didn’t have a strong answer for that, but what they maintained was that the new feature is simply a platform for customers at home to connect with food merchants — a better and more efficient workflow for both parties to consider during these trying times. 

The idea here is to let even more food operators get onboard a new discovery platform at no charge at all, so that they can enjoy the benefits of free marketing while also enjoying the entire earnings. There is, after all, a movement by local F&B vendors to cut out the middleman and get the revenue in full by receiving orders from customers directly without incurring the fees from food delivery services. 

What the Google team in Singapore found out at the start of the circuit breaker was that it was a little cumbersome to peruse eatery menus shared on group chats on various messaging platforms. Patrick Teo, Director of Engineering for Payments and Engineering Site Lead at Google Singapore, told AsiaOne that they began work on the project after several Google employees reached out to see how the company can help F&B businesses, big and small, during this time. 

“Like several others in Singapore, we too were sharing food menus among family and friends,” Teo said. “So we thought, what if we could scale this and make this easier for consumers and restaurants?”

The feature they’ve built within the span of a few weeks is still pretty flexible, assured Teo. Vendors may choose to opt into the Google Pay system and let customers process the payment directly in-app, like what Burger King is doing.

On the other hand, small vendors can get on board by filling up a simple online form and choose not to integrate their payment system into the app. A hawker stall can accept payment through PayLah or cash and still be listed on Google Pay. 

The important thing to note here is that they’ve set a very low barrier of entry for food merchants to get their business listed on Google Pay. It’s something that’s appreciated by those who’ve already set up their Google Pay profiles. 

“For most operators, having an effective online presence is more critical than ever as we turn to online food deliveries or take-outs to keep the businesses going,” remarked O Banh Mi owner Samuel Phan Chee Chiat.

“The new Menu Discovery feature on Google Pay is timely in helping to effectively showcase our offerings digitally and reach a wider pool of customers beyond our usual catchment area.” 

The Google Pay update has gone live for iOS and Android so you don’t have to budge from your couch to discover new food options to order in the weeks to come.

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