Social Mixer 2024 Singapore
Analysis: Why HungryGoWhere's closure was an inevitable outcome

Analysis: Why HungryGoWhere's closure was an inevitable outcome

share on

Singtel-owned announced its closure earlier this week after 15 years of service to the Singapore F&B industry. The brand will operate until 11 July 2021 and will be taken offline at the end of the day. Its "Goodbye" Facebook post has received over 143 reactions, 29 comments and 91 shares with many netizens bidding their farewells to the brand with crying emojis and expressions of gratitude for its service. Its Instagram post received a more dramatic response from users with over 2,123 likes and 140 comments at the time of writing. Many Instagram users expressed how thankful they were for its service. 

While the move to shut down may have come as a bit of a surprise to many users, former marketer and Wong Mei Wai, founder, CEO and chief change catalyst of APAC Global Advisory said the "bold move" was reflective of the changing times and needs of today's consumers which left the brand in "no man's land". The silver lining, however, is that the move can now allow the parent company to focus on its core business and other sustainable digital innovations that can navigate through the pandemic. 

Wong said: "COVID-19 has forced many companies globally to reappraise their business portfolio to ensure the fit and focus is there to remain sustainable."

In many cases, businesses that were on the borderline saw managements pushed to make hard decisions. Businesses needed to be reviewed strategically for fitness, sustainability and profitability. Those that left decisions in limbo were at times left with little option beyond closure.  

"While HungryGoWhere had its roots in digital dissemination of content from food critics, and even branched out to include food deals and reservations, its focus remained predominantly in on-premise dining and specific to Singtel users deals," Wong said. However, over the years the space has been quickly occupied by many other players offering similar deals.

Adding to the conversation, Nishant Kaushal, head of data, strategy and solutions of ADNA said that as a service, was unable to adapt fast enough to the changing food industry, and COVID-19 changes didn't make the situation any easier. 

"Apps such as Chope have quickly adapted to the new COVID-19 realities by swiftly adapting its tech and resources to address the changing landscape," Kaushal said. These apps started providing delivery solutions for the restaurants’ and new takeaway offerings. While the new additions to services by competitors were introduced gradually, they picked up speed over the last one and a half years. 

Kaushal also added that ADNA's measurement of the rising trend of Singaporeans eating-in last year showed that 32% of respondents were now cooking more at home, and 25% found it troublesome to eat out due to COVID-19 led related restrictions. At the height of the COVID-19 circuit breaker last year, search for "food delivery" was up six times versus what it was in 2006 - the year HungryGoWhere was born. Moreover, in the same study, 33% of Singaporeans said that they expect to do less of eating out at restaurants in future as well. 

While dining out in Singapore used to be seen as more of an experience, today the function has become more functional. In May 2021, the search volume of “eating out” was 88% down versus 2006. During the same period search for “restaurant reviews” dipped more than 90%.

"The astronomical rise of restaurant booking and delivery apps over last five years taps on this shift in consumer focus and habit and has probably contributed to the brand's demise," Kaushal said. 

Ranga Somanathan, co-founder and curator of RSquared Global Ventures, said the fate of HungryGoWhere came about due to the "overall consolidation and corporate restructuring" which led to the non-core businesses being re-evaluated by Singtel. Somanathan, who previously worked with Singtel as a media agency partner during his time as CEO of Omnicom Media Group said:

Rather than labour on with a solution that is not strategic for future growth and shareholder value, shutting this operation will release management time to refocus on opportunities that 5G brings and the investments it requires.

Making an acquisition a success

Revisiting HungryGoWhere's acquisition by Singtel, Somanathan said through the acquisition HungryGoWhere would have gained momentum immediately. However, given the competitive pressure and lack of iterations to keep the solution relevant, it ceded its position of strength to multiple platforms that have since come into play.

Somanathan added that the ambition to make HungryGoWhere a "super-app" which curated content and experiences in the restaurant scene, hosted within InSing, were all sound strategies by Singtel - and would have helped accelerate the growth of the brand. Moreover, Singtel too is likely to have benefited from the acquisition through culture, talent and potential IPs that are redeployed within the parent organisation.
"For any acquisition to succeed, the partnership has to line up on multiple fronts. It can't be a plug and play. Synching of cultures, alignment of leadership styles and values, operational protocols and laddered up strategies are critical to align. Without resolving these potential conflicts, the success rates of such investments over mid to long term plummet," Somanathan added. 
Understanding the various approaches a brand's team would have to take, Wong said that agility trait should be present in any approach. "It requires teams that can continually refine its offerings and consumer journeys, backed by a sustainable business and brand model. To operate in this F&B space, a focused brand with awareness and clear positioning, backed by a business model and commitment to the right resources (people and funding), as well as a strong support of key merchants and innovation, is critical for success," APAC Global Advisory's Wong said.
Related articles:

share on

Follow us on our Telegram channel for the latest updates in the marketing and advertising scene.

Free newsletter

Get the daily lowdown on Asia's top marketing stories.

We break down the big and messy topics of the day so you're updated on the most important developments in Asia's marketing development – for free.

subscribe now open in new window