There’s never a boring day when one is delivering food, as some TikTok users have found.
“Anytime, when I get out to do food delivery, there’s always different things happening,” Bryan Tan, a part-time food delivery rider in Singapore, told VICE.
Known to over 30,000 followers on TikTok simply as @thatfooddeliveryrider, the 26-year-old documents his adventures delivering food around the city-state on his electronic bicycle, captivating viewers with slice-of-life content recorded by a camera strapped to his chest. From careless customers to near accidents, cool cars, and heartwarming interactions, there isn’t really a theme to Tan’s videos, but they’ve attracted the attention of fellow Singaporeans all the same.
The food delivery business, which offers convenient access to restaurant food, experienced a boom when the pandemic started last year, as people worked and studied from home in unprecedented numbers. Even as lockdown measures eased in Singapore, food delivery riders remain a common sight in local malls, often rushing to get orders to their destinations. Usually, the more deliveries they do, the more they earn.
Tan’s TikToks are snippets from longer videos posted on his YouTube channel. He started delivering food in February 2019 and posting videos later that year, in an attempt to combine his interest in video editing with his food delivery stint. The videos were initially meant to help budding riders get into food delivery—how to use food delivery apps, navigate to locations, keep food intact during the ride, and other tips and tricks.
“The main purpose of this channel, from the start, is actually to bring value to food delivery riders,” Tan said. “As a food delivery rider myself, in the past, I did not have any guidance from anyone.”
But instead of food delivery riders keen to learn about the ins and outs of the job, Tan noticed that a lot of his viewers are non-riders who are thoroughly fascinated by his behind-the-scenes look at the industry.
It’s a global trend. Around the world, people are hungry for the inner workings of jobs that are ubiquitous in everyday life. Among those who have blown up on TikTok include a Five Guys employee showing how their fries are made and baristas introducing secret Starbucks orders.
One of the first videos Tan posted on TikTok is a compilation of him delivering food to a bunch of households, edited to show the moments he says “hello” and “thank you.” Seen through Tan’s lens, the tiny, repetitive interaction reveals itself to be a new kind of mundanity that likely doesn’t cross the minds of customers on the receiving end of these greetings.
While Tan’s most popular videos have been viewed over a million times, most of his viewers don’t actually know what he looks like because he never reveals his face to the camera. Even then, Tan said that some clients have recognized his voice—a telling indicator of his online fame.
Being out and about at work also means that Tan gets to explore hidden corners of Singapore and bring his viewers along for the ride. In May, Tan stumbled into a condominium which exuded, as some commenters noted, “Alice in Borderland feels.”
“Oh my god guys,” Tan says as his camera takes in the gray, gloomy compound dotted with residential units. “No offense but got the feels of [a] dormitory eh, this condo.”
Like Tan, other Singaporeans in the comments were stunned by the stark difference between the drab building and the fancy residential facilities that Singaporeans usually associate with condominiums.
While Tan thinks he’s simply documenting his days, his videos may be more important than he realizes. In the dumpster fire that is the current gig economy, gig workers are often overworked and underpaid. Besides the job’s exploitative nature, the physical labor of gig workers is often taken for granted by customers.
Without knowing it, Tan’s videos—which literally feature his point of view, from his chest—are humanizing delivery riders for many Singaporeans who rely on them on a daily basis.
In Tan’s comments section, people offer words of encouragement, fellow riders show their solidarity, and regular food delivery users ask burning questions like: Do riders get annoyed when they have to deliver the smallest food orders?
For many, Tan’s virtual food delivery runs serve as a reminder of the unsung hard work that goes into having food magically appear at their doorsteps.
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