'Efficiency' the key to expanding China's online food delivery sector
By CGTN’s Gao Songya
Big data from China's leading online caterers, ele.me, shows that the country's takeout sector continues to grow fast, and peoples' eating habits are changing accordingly. 
National Bureau of Statistics data showed that the market value of China's catering industry is looking to reach four trillion yuan or 623 billion US dollars in 2017, and takeout food is a major contributor. 
Food ordering and delivery platforms had 350 million registered users last year and their revenues topped 100 billion yuan in the third quarter. That's roughly a 50-percent increase from the previous year. 
The online food delivery sector has shown unstoppable growth, with convenience being a huge reason.  
Zhang Hao, vice president of ele.me. said that efficiency is crucial to boost further expansion.
“The key word is efficiency,” said Zhang. “Thanks to big data and machinery, our system can predict when the order can be delivered and how long our drivers will spend on the road. How long the deliverers need to wait for the elevator. The system is also smart enough to know,” said Zhang.
Data from ele.me also showed some new trends to the takeout sector 2017. The sector was expanding in smaller cities, with second-tier cities taking the biggest shares in terms of orders and revenues. Higher-end restaurants were also becoming increasingly popular along with the country's consumption upgrade.
When it comes to predictions on new methods of delivery, the report said that drone and robot delivery will see more use in 2018.
“We have several experts working on it,” said Zhang, “I think robot delivery can probably happen this year.”