The food delivery market in China is dominated by two main platforms – Alibaba-backed Eleme 饿了么 and Tencent-backed Meituan Takeout 美团外卖, which we’ll be looking at today.
Part of Meituan Dianping 美团点评 – a ‘lifestyle service provider’ offering everything from food delivery to sharebikes to cinema tickets – the service is recognisable by its kangaroo logo and yellow-garbed drivers.
Payment is primarily made via WeChat so you’ll need WeChat Pay to place orders. A phone number can be used to set up your account.
Let’s take a look at the app’s homepage.
The location icon and text (1) is the address I want to deliver to. Click on this to choose an address, or add a new one. The Chinese-readers amongst you will notice mine is set to ‘public toilet’ – the joys of hutong living sometimes require creative choices for delivery points.
Then we have our search bar (2) followed by icons (3) representing different categories of good and services that can be browsed and ordered.
The four icons at the bottom (4) represent the main areas of the app – home, members area, order history and my account.
Let’s start by trying the search function. While some businesses offer roman-character listings, the majority of the app is in Chinese. Non-Chinese readers will need to copy and paste the characters needed from another app.
You can search by the name of a restaurant/shop or by the food/product you are looking for.
Here’s an example of a search for 炸鸡 (fried chicken).
Beneath the search bar we have search filters and results ordering (1) followed by the results (2). There’s also a shopping cart (3), where you’ll find that McDonald’s you started ordering at midnight, only to remember your diet last minute and quickly close the app.
You can also use the icons on the homepage to browse stores.
I’ve clicked on the first icon ‘delicious food’ 美食.
At the top of the page we have a search bar and icons for popular food categories (1) followed by filters and results ordering (2).
We then have the results listed (3) as restaurant names. The default ordering is ‘intelligent sort’ which usually prioritises both what you have ordered recently and your current location.
Here’s what we see when we click on a result.
The top of the page (1) includes some information about the store – including the expected delivery time and available coupons.
The three main options (2) below are menu, reviews and store info.
And the menu follows (3) with most restaurants and shops opting to sort food into categories (seen here on the left).
Items you select from the menu are added to your shopping cart (4), with the final yellow button taking you on to order placement and delivery.
Payment & Delivery
Click that yellow button and here’s the next page.
At the top of the page we can choose the delivery location (1) and time (2), which will default to your the last address used and asap respectively. Not all businesses offer pre-booked deliveries, but for those that do it’s incredibly useful to pre-book lunch or dinner if you’re on a tight schedule.
Double check your order (3) then check to see if there are any available discounts or hongbaos (4) (we’ll cover those in another guide).
Finally you can check the total cost and click the yellow button to proceed to payment.
There are multiple payment options (1) including Meituan’s own payment system, but you’ll most likely be opting for WeChat Pay. Click the yellow button (2) to jump to WeChat pay and complete your order.
Once you’ve paid you’ll be able to watch your delivery in real-time.
A map (1) shows your location, the store’s location and the driver. You can also see the distance and rough time left on the delivery.
At the top right we have two buttons (2) – the first is refresh, the second is customer service.
At the end of the page are three further options (3) – apply for refund, online contact and change address/telephone. Online contact is useful if you need to talk to the driver or store in the case of delivery problems.
Just before arriving, your driver will usually call you. If your spoken Chinese is poor one useful phrase to memorise is 你到了吗？ (Nǐ dào le ma?) – Have you arrived?
And that’s that for ordering takeout through Meituan. You will be prompted to leave a review for both the driver and store after the order is completed – remember that these drivers work hard and earn bonuses based on quick deliveries and good service, so it’s always nice to give a 5-star rating if you’re satisfied.