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Douyin’s food delivery operation expands footprint fivefold to cover 30 major Chinese cities in competition with Meituan

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ByteDance’s viral video app Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, is making one of its most aggressive pushes to expand its delivery service in a bid to compete against industry powerhouse Meituan.

The platform known for its short video offerings, which has slowly crept into “super app” territory with many different services, will expand its food delivery business to 24 new cities, including major markets such as Shenzhen, Tianjin, southeast of Beijing, and Chongqing, in southwestern China.

Douyin is contracting with third-party regional vendors to “meet delivery demands from merchants and strengthen regional operational and marking capabilities”, the company said in a notice published on Monday to the website of its local services business. Douyin struck a deal last year with delivery firms including SF Express’ intracity delivery platform SFTC, JD.com’s Dada and Alibaba Group Holding’s Ele.me to deliver meals sold through its platform.

Douyin see initial success with on-demand services but not a rival to Meituan yet

The number of new cities is four times more than where it was already operating, bringing Douyin food deliveries to a total of 30 major cities. When complete, the expansion will cover 70 per cent of Chinese provincial capitals, including Shenyang, Shijiazhuang, Jinan and Hefei.

Douyin has been planning for the expansion for much of this year, with representatives saying in February that the company would be offering food delivery in more cities than just Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu.

Still, Douyin remains a much smaller player in this space compared with Meituan and Ele.me, whose owner Alibaba also owns the Post. The expansion push may have a limited short-term impact on China’s larger food delivery platforms, according to Zhuang Shuai, founder and chief analyst of market consultancy Bailian. Meituan’s main edge, he said, is its large network of riders and merchant partners.

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As the largest on-demand delivery service provider in China, Meituan had 6.24 million food delivery riders and over 9.3 million merchants on its platform last year, according to the company. By comparison, Douyin said it had 2 million merchant partners as of April.

Douyin is trying to differentiate itself as a more premium service by focusing on meals that start at 60 yuan (US$8.23), according to a research note from Bocom International Securities. The average price of an online food order in 2021 was 48 yuan.

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Drone food deliveries take off in China’s tech city, Shenzhen

Drone food deliveries take off in China’s tech city, Shenzhen

Food delivery is one of the largest segments in China’s local service sector, making it a potentially lucrative area for any business that is able to wrestle a foothold from the dominant tech giants.

China’s on-demand local services market is projected to reach 2.5 trillion yuan in 2025, according to a report by research firm iiMedia. It has played a major role in driving profit growth for China’s internet industry in the first seven months of this year, according to a recent survey by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

Providers in the local services market segment, including on-demand food delivery platforms and online travel agencies, saw aggregate revenue grow 11.6 per cent for the period, according to the MIIT.

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Since Douyin started testing food delivery last year, it has seen some initial success. Gross merchandise volume for local services topped 100 billion yuan in the first half of this year, according to a report by local media outlet LatePost, which was less than half of Meituan’s figure for the same period.

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