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Interview with PLUM: How the delivery platform has reshaped HK’s lunch hour

Hong Kong’s working professionals across various business districts have been struggling to enjoy lunch due to limited choices and seats. Some of them prepare their own lunch boxes to avoid the crowd and enjoy some privacy while some go for takeaway food and even delivery platforms. Until last year, PLUM entered the industry as an alternative and has become a popular platform in a year.

Co-founded by Desmond Cheung in 2017, PLUM offers lunch and dinner across various business and residential districts.

Hongkongers are not unfamiliar with online delivery platforms – Deliveroo and foodpanda have well established in the industry. However, PLUM chooses another path to differentiate the company from the competitors.

“Our team members curate menus every day for working professionals in different districts. Customers have to place their orders before 10:40 am so that we could have enough time to arrange the meals,” says Cheung.

Customers have to go to the pick-up points to get their meals rather than stay at the office to wait for their meals. Cheung explains such delivery method helps save costs as a small team could cater for plenty of customers. In addition, setting up a delivery point can attract the eyeballs of customers and listen to their comments. For example, some customers ask for the menu of the following day or details of other pick-up points.

By offering more than 10 items a day from main meals to desserts and even juice, PLUM can reach out to more customers including those who bring their lunch boxes – sometimes they may only want some desserts after lunch, according to Cheung.

PLUM does not charge delivery fee and require no minimum charge. Individuals may find it easier to make an order when compared to other food delivery platforms. However, Cheung says PLUM does not want to start a price war.

“I don’t think a price war could help (our business). Customers are more interested in new alternatives in the market and our mission is to offer food with good value – that’s why we are making things simple with no other charges,” comments Cheung.

Cheung has worked for some investment banks before starting his own business. He says he understands the trouble and difficulty of having lunch in business districts – limited restaurants and seats, and fixed lunch time. Customers can only have their lunch in just an hour and restaurants cannot make good use of their opening hours to prepare more meals.

PLUM requires customers to place their orders in the morning which allows the partner restaurants to prepare meals in advance before the rush hour, so that they could focus on dine-in customers in the afternoon, making it a useful way to maximise revenue and make good use of idle time.

To PLUM, group order enables it to get lower prices from partner restaurants. Setting up pick-up points in dense areas can further reduce costs as a station could cater for more customers. Cheung says customers are not willing to walk too far away from their offices to get the lunch boxes.

With more delivery platforms, working professionals are now having more choices. Every item in the menu has been tried by PLUM’s staff and the menus are curated based on the staff members’ comments.

PLUM kicked off the business at Central. Now the delivery platform covers Admiralty, Cyberport, Kwun Tong, Kwai Chung, Kowloon Bay, Wanchai and Wong Chuk Hang. PLUM even offers dinner to residents living in Tseung Kwan O.

Cheung says, “I was told by some colleagues that working professionals in industrial estates have been complaining about the lack of choices. I ask them to explore the feasibility of setting up pick-up stations there and the result exceeds expectations. They even said they were grateful for offering alternatives in a remote area!”

Asked whether PLUM will further expand the business next year, Cheung says PLUM has been approached by corporates and banks to offer lunch. The company is also planning to offer enhanced services such as delivering meals to customers’ door. Social media campaigns and food tasting events are under consideration as well.

“Customers need alternatives and good food since they are willing to spend. We are expanding but will still ask all colleagues to delivery lunch boxes across Hong Kong. We aim to provide humanised services  and listen to their comments face-to-face,” Cheung concludes.

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