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How Does GrabFood Know Your Cravings?

What algorithm sorcery is this?
by Arianne Merez
Just now
Photo/s: shutterstock

If you have used a food delivery app, you have probably thought of this at least once: the app probably knows what you're craving.

One moment, you were looking at milk tea and suddenly, you find various recommendations of different brands of the drink in the food delivery app. How did the app know that you wanted milk tea?

For GrabFood, a complex network of algorithms and systems makes it possible.

From just a few clicks in the app, GrabFood can personalize its suggestions in real-time to cater to customer cravings, said Xiaole Kuang, head of Grab's engineering-deliveries.

"We believe that our system can respond to your clicking behavior in realtime," Kuang told reporters in a video call from Singapore on Wednesday.

Think of it this way, you click on two different milk tea stores in Grab Food's options and the app's system picks up that you're probably craving the drink. It will then suggest different milk teas available in your area to you under the "recommended for you" section.

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Customers' browsing and order history also give GrabFood an idea of favorite eats and usual cravings -- from cuisine, budget, to common food preferences.

"Your browsing and order history on GrabFood [influences the system]. Our system tries to learn our eater’s profile after they have made some orders. After learning your eater profile, our system is going to rank all the relevant options," Kuang said.

Continue reading below ↓

Other factors that GrabFood takes into consideration are a restaurant's popularity, how fast it could whip up the order, and the availability of drivers to bring the order from the store to the customer.

"Underlying, it is a complex network of algorithms and systems that work together to cater the need of our consumers," Kuang said.

But what if your favorite food is unavailable?

It happens and is frustrating especially if the craving is intense. But Kuang said GrabFood adjusts by recommending alternative options.

"If a dish or restaurant that you searched for is unavailable or has less than 4 options, our machine finds similar merchants based on keywords similarities on the menu," she said.


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Grab is also currently training its system to detect similarities in menu photos.

For example, if a customer craves Jollibee Chickenjoy and the food item is unavailable, GrabFood will recommend other restaurants that offer fried chicken too or other chicken dishes based on the photos on their menus.

"Our goal here is to find as many relevant options as possible for you," Kuang said.

Continue reading below ↓

So the next time you wonder how the food delivery app knows your favorites, remember that it's not magic but just pure business.

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