Inspiration

The future of our hawker culture is digital. With hawkers expecting low foot traffic for the foreseeable future, the only way forward for our hawker culture is to move online. At FoodLeh?, we aim to help every single hawker in Singapore establish an online storefront to get discovered, promote their food, and generate sales.

FoodLeh? (https://www.foodleh.app/) is a non-profit, crowdsourced & open-source F&B platform created by a group of university students to lead our local hawkers into the digital economy. We now have around 450 F&B listings. Hawkers can easily add a listing, add their menu, and receive orders through WhatsApp. Singaporeans can access the easy-to-use interface to find hawkers around them and instantly browse menus & make orders.

We began this project after seeing many hawkers and local F&B struggling with bad business recently. We were inspired by the Hawkers United Facebook group with 260k members but realized that the Facebook interface was tediously hard to search. We wanted the same community-driven spirit of the Facebook group but with a few distinctive features:

  1. Empower every hawker with an easy-to-setup permanent online storefront with comprehensive information like contact number, pictures, and menu
  2. Enable every hawker to have a free and simple-to-use online ordering system to list menu items and receive orders directly from customers
  3. Allow Singaporeans to easily discover location-based hawker food nearby based on their postal code instead of stumbling across irrelevant posts about stalls halfway across the island
  4. Encourage Singaporeans to help list for their favourite hawkers especially traditional hawkers who are less tech-savvy

Lastly, we wanted this platform to be completely open-source. Our aim is to develop until it reaches a stable state, then have it run and owned by the community, with occasional moderation by us. This way it can remain sustainable.

Theme 2: Reopening Our Economy: Moving Into The Digital Economy

Singapore hawkers are especially badly hit by the pandemic with reduced foot traffic to hawker centres. To reopen our economy, hawkers must adapt to a new world of "work from home" setups, food deliveries, and online marketing. Without these adaptations, hawkers will be left behind while more tech-savvy F&B owners take over.

Hawkers must stop relying on a physical storefront but instead move into the Digital Economy. What this entails is a transition to an online storefront, utilizing social media marketing, and accepting e-payments. FoodLeh? helps make this transition easier by firstly offering them a free online storefront with a built-in order form so they can easily share them with customers. As hawkers eventually learn to use e-payment systems, we plan to build in e-payments so that hawkers spend more time cooking and less than handling orders.

What it does

Customer Journey

Choosing food

  1. Delivery or Dabao: On Home page, user chooses delivery or dabao and is prompted to enter postal code
  2. View hawkers and filter/search: User views hawker listings, sorted by distance. User may further filter by categories or search by keywords for a particular hawker name, food category, food item.
  3. View individual hawker: User selects any hawker listing and clicks into it.
  4. General information: User will see the following fields (if present): menu, brief description, detailed description, details regarding delivery, delivery fees and opening hours.

Submitting Order (example in images)

  1. The menu and price preview is displayed and user clicks See more or Menu to view full menu.
  2. User selects quantity of desired items just like ordering anything online
  3. User reviews order quantity and prices and enters delivery information
  4. User clicks 'Place order via WhatsApp' and is brought to WhatsApp if on mobile, or WhatsApp Web/Desktop if installed on desktop.
  5. On WhatsApp, user is brought directly to a new chat with the hawker with the pre-formatted order message (example in images). They then proceed to confirm payment details with the hawker over WhatsApp; FoodLeh? will not handle any payment.

Hawker Journey

  1. Home page: Hawker can choose to click a 中文 button at the top which toggles the website language to Chinese, for those more familiar in Chinese.
  2. Create: Hawker clicks 'Create' and is brought to the Create page.
  3. Enter Details: Hawker uploads up to 6 images and enters basic stall details and additional details.
  4. Submit: Hawker clicks 'Submit' and is brought to the new page of their stall's listing.
  5. Share: Hawker can share their listing on Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram or Twitter by clicking buttons on their listing page.
  6. Edit: If the hawker wishes to edit their listing, they click 'Edit' on their listing page and are brought to the same page as the Create page, where they can edit all the information they previously submitted.
  7. Review & Moderation: When the hawker submits the edits, an email is triggered to us for review. The email and review process is similar if hawkers click 'Delete' to delete a duplicate listing.
  8. Note: Customers are encouraged to help hawkers create listings as well, and the process is the same as above. We ask that they seek permission from the hawkers to be listed.

How we built it

We coded it in ReactJS frontend with Firebase backend and Firestore database. Github

Along the way, many people have given us kind advice and valuable help. Development-wise, the open-source community on Github has been amazing and people with a lot of experience and expertise have been submitting many pull requests and pointing out issues we should address.

Challenges we ran into

1. Reaching out to hawkers: We are still facing this issue as a lot of traditional hawkers are the ones who will benefit from visibility, but it is hard to reach out to them online. We recruited a few of our friends to help with publicity on social media, but are open to any ideas on how to reach out to more hawkers!

2. Technical expertise : We only had 2 CS students developing the site and we were also in the midst of our final examinations, so we had some issues keeping up with developing new features and bug fixing. Luckily, the Github community was instrumental in giving us advice and helping us with PRs. We also had help from our friends!

3. (Long term) Focusing on hawkers: We do not wish to exclude restaurants now because all F&B outlets are suffering during the COVID-19 period. However, in the long term, we feel that hawkers are the F&B group that could benefit most from an online presence, as restaurants have more capacity for publicity measures, etc. This also makes it easier for Singaporeans to truly find hawker food all in one place on FoodLeh?. Thus, we wish to find some way to validate "hawker status" in the future, but we could only find postal codes for NEA hawkers on data.gov, which doesn't cover all hawkers.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  1. We reached 367 hawker listings and all but 1 of them were created by hawkers/community users themselves! We are hopeful that this means the site can be truly community-run in the long term, without us going in to manually add hawkers one by one, as this would not be sustainable.

  2. We were featured on Straits Times, AsiaOne, LianHe ZaoBao and Youth.sg. Hopefully this publicity gets more people to use FoodLeh? and brings more business to the F&B outlets.

What we learned

1. Build fast, fail quickly, keep improving: We did not have previous experience building a full website from scratch and handling hosting and other FOSS good practices, so this has been a huge learning experience for us.

2. Feedback: It's very important to get feedback from the end users, like the hawkers themselves and people looking for food. We received a lot of feedback via email and Facebook Messenger, such as managing edit access, requests for a delivery feature, issues with location search etc. It's not possible to keep building in a black box without these users pitching in to give feedback too.

What's next for FoodLeh?

Collaboration with NEA and NTUC Enterprise

Currently, we have a limited amount of outreach to hawkers (450 listings so far) as non-tech savvy hawkers will not be aware of FoodLeh. We hope to work with NEA and NTUC Enterprise to outreach to hawkers to aid them in the transition to the digital economy. These government organizations will have the contacts and the resources to ensure that hawkers are willing and able to make the digital transition.

Work with SGCares to Recruit Volunteers to List Hawkers

In the long-run, we hope that FoodLeh will be the most comprehensive hawker listing in Singapore so that anyone looking to support our hawkers can easily locate them. To do so will require lots of manpower to reach out to hawkers and list for them if necessary. We hope to work with SGCares (by MCCY) to recruit volunteers for our movement to save our hawkers.

Seek Full-Time Developers to Continue Developing FoodLeh

In the long-term, FoodLeh requires further development in security, additional features (e.g. hawker dashboard, e-payments, delivery system). However, many members of the team are students who will be starting full-time employment soon and unable to build these features full-time.

DriverLeh - Delivery feature to connect hawkers to drivers easily

We received a lot of requests from hawkers to offer delivery as well, so we discussed many ways and developed a feature to help hawkers to find drivers more easily. It is already completed and functional but we are doing beta testing first with just 2 hawkers to iron out bugs and refine the user flow.

Problem: Hawkers who do delivery now usually find a few riders on Facebook (eg Delivery United FB group), create a small chat group, and post delivery requests when they need drivers. They manage the requests via the chat group. Some also post directly on Facebook groups, and receive 10-20 comments which they have to respond to one by one. Other hawkers find it a hassle and only do takeaway.

DriverLeh? - Hawker Journey

  1. Hawker receives a delivery order, is paid by the customer via PayNow/PayLah, and goes to the FoodLeh? DriverLeh? page to submit a delivery request.
  2. Hawker enters stall address, delivery timing, customer address, hawker mobile number and customer mobile number.
  3. We generate an estimated delivery fee based on the 2 towns that the hawker/customer are in eg Bedok -> Tampines.
  4. Hawker submits order, and a Telegram message is automatically sent to a Telegram channel of delivery drivers (recruited by us).
  5. When a delivery driver accepts the order, the hawker receives a confirmation SMS (sent via Twilio).
  6. The delivery driver picks up the order, the hawker pays the driver in cash/PayNow/PayLah and passes the food to the driver.

DriverLeh? - Delivery Driver Journey

  1. The driver sees an order request message in the Telegram channel that they are in. This contains the pickup and dropoff address, timing, and delivery fee promised.
  2. The driver clicks on a unique URL in the Telegram message if they are willing to take the order.
  3. The driver is brought to a FoodLeh? confirmation page where they enter their mobile number and click 'Confirm' to accept the order.
  4. Upon confirmation, the Telegram message in the channel is edited to remove order details and instead says "A driver has picked up this order!" Other drivers will not be able to take the order
  5. The driver who accepted the order receives a confirmation SMS (sent via Twilio) with the full delivery details. (Hawker also receives a confirmation SMS at this point with the driver's mobile number)
  6. Driver picks up order at the hawker stall, receives payment from the hawker, and delivers the food to the customer.

We are open to working with the government or NGOs. Our own aim is to help the site reach a stable state, then have it run and sustained by the community, with a little moderation.

What We Are Presenting In the first 1.5 minutes, we will be showing our demo video (as found on this page) to introduce what FoodLeh? is In the next 3.5 minutes, we will use a PowerPoint slide to talk about our motivations for the web site in helping our hawkers as well as our future goals (DriverLeh) and aspirations for this project.

Built With

Share this project:

Updates