In mid-September, the All Pakistan Restaurants Association (APRA) announced that restaurants in Karachi would boycott Foodpanda for three days because the food delivery service was imposing “unfair” policies including increasing the commission they charged its member restaurants to a “non-viable” level – from 18% to 25-35%.
The boycott was initially restricted to restaurants in Karachi, but has now expanded to include those in Islamabad and Lahore. Consequently, several restaurants are now promoting their own delivery services, while relatively newer food delivery services such as Careem and FoodRunner are publicising their services and offering discounts.
Muhammad Naeem Siddiqui, chairman APRA has put forward various conditions for the restoration of Foodpanda’s services after consulting its member restaurants and associations such as the Islamabad Restaurant Association (IRA), the Lahore Restaurant Unity Association and the Lahore Restaurant Association (LRA). These conditions include the implementation of a standardised commission structure, allowing the cross-sharing of customer data, and letting restaurants deliver Foodpanda orders through their own riders. It is expected that the boycott will continue until Foodpanda agrees to meet these conditions.
“Considering the support from all major cities, we decided to continue the boycott until Foodpanda agrees to meet our justified demands,” says Muhammad Fawad, Coordinator, APRA.
Social media groups such as Khalid Alvi Marketing Next (KAMN) and Swot's Guide to Karachi's Restaurant's Cafes Dhabas HBFE & Takeouts saw a spike in engagement as consumers shared their two cents on the matter – especially after Espresso started an ‘anti-panda’ movement on social media.
Espresso’s post ‘Aren’t Pandas meant to be peaceful and nice? How come ours wants to eat everyone’s food?’ received a positive response on social media (as a marketer I do feel that the copy could easily be shorter and crisper), but overall it deserves the appreciation it is garnering online.
In order to dilute the negative buzz, Foodpanda launched what seems to be a ‘stealth’ PR campaign. In the last week or so, people who seem to have no connection with Foodpanda have rolled out posts praising the delivery giant’s services. You will also find never-before-seen comments like “best app ever” and “thank you Foodpanda” on posts discussing the boycott.
The main problem with such stealth PR campaigns is that they are anything but stealthy. Social media consumers are much smarter and well aware of such marketing tactics than they were a couple of years ago. However, although this campaign may not stealthy, it IS still effective, as it seems that Foodpanda have managed to curb the negativity around their brand with a deluge of posts publicising discounts and positive reinforcements by stealth bloggers (also known as “namaloom afraad” in advertising circles).
Sponsored stories highlighting how Foodpanda helped the economy during Covid-19 were also rolled out on mainstream websites. After a quick browsing session, I would say that Foodpanda’s PR team has done a brilliant job at controlling the backlash they could have received. From LinkedIn to Facebook, it’s much easier to find positive posts than negative ones about Foodpanda. That, in my opinion, is a massive PR win.
Meanwhile, Careem Now, known for striking while the iron is hot, addressed the grievances of restaurants protected by APRA and offered them exactly what they asked for. Several restaurants have already made the switch to Careem Now especially as they are offering exclusive discounts through the app. Other member restaurants have also started offering massive discounts to customers if they order directly from them.
The good news is that consumers are the real winners here. Here’s to great deals and gluttony – bon appétit!
Taniya Hasan is a content marketer.