SINGAPORE - To save time and money, more people are using "drive-through" services offered by some eateries here.
From chicken rice to chilli crab to prata, restaurant customers can place orders over the phone, drive up to the kerbside later and pay for and collect their food without getting out of their vehicles.
Customers say this helps them save time waiting for a table or parking space - and parking fees - while eateries say the service is an alternative to home deliveries, which they cannot provide due to the labour crunch.
The kerbside takeaway service has proven to be a hit among customers, especially on weekends and rainy days.
"A few years ago, we had about 10 such orders on weekdays and 50 on weekends and special occasions," said the 54-year-old owner of the No Signboard Seafood restaurant in Geylang, who wanted to be known only as Madam Yeo. "Now, we get about 20 on weekdays. On weekends, Christmas or Mother's Day, we can get more than 70."
The service is also popular among customers who are unwilling to wait between 10 and 20 minutes for a table at its Geylang outlet on weekends, said Madam Yeo, even though the restaurant offers a valet service so parking is not a problem. She attributed the rising demand for kerbside takeaway service to growing awareness and more people who are too busy to cook at home.
At Five Star Chicken Rice's Cheong Chin Nam Road outlet in Upper Bukit Timah, the kerbside takeaway service has helped to boost its revenue, after overall business was affected by the construction of the Downtown Line, said Mr Brendan Yeo, one of the directors of the restaurant.
Parking in the area was a problem, as a row of parallel parking spaces on the one-way street where the restaurant is located was obstructed by the construction works.
With kerbside takeaway service, patrons need not hunt for a parking space - they can drive up and pick up their food in a matter of seconds, said Mr Yeo.
"We have staff on standby at the side of the road and they are trained to look out for the (customers') cars. They also have the change ready," said Mr Yeo. "It's more like a pit stop."
The service is also available at Five Star's two other outlets, in Katong and River Valley.
Its rival chicken rice chain Boon Tong Kee in Upper Bukit Timah and Singapore Zam Zam Restaurant along North Bridge Road also offer the kerbside service.
For restaurants, the drive-through is an alternative to home deliveries, which they are unable to provide due to the lack of manpower. "We have the van, but no driver," said Mr Ramamoorthy Mathan, 41, a supervisor at Al-Ameen Eating House in Upper Bukit Timah.
The 22-year-old halal restaurant, which serves Malay and Indian cuisine, stopped running home deliveries two years ago and started the kerbside takeaway instead. The number of "drive-through" orders it receives has grown to about 50 a day, it said.
Five Star Chicken Rice's Mr Yeo said an islandwide delivery service he started at the Katong outlet lasted only two years because of manpower crunch.
People who use kerbside takeaway service like it for its convenience. Engineer Loh T.C., 37, picks up chicken rice from Five Star about once a month.
"I don't have time to sit down and eat there. It's also hard to find a parking space in the evening, and especially during weekends," he said.
This article was first published on Aug 27, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.