Interview with Mark Secchia on his Food Delivery Shanghai Service

Best Food Delivery Shanghai Service
Interview with Mark Secchia, founder of Sherpa's, the largest Shanghai Food Delivery service for expats, and a long-time Shanghai expat himself.

Sherpa's was the first food delivery service in Shanghai servicing the expat community and is still the best known. In recent years, however, more and more suppliers have established English language delivery services for foreigners. For a list of healthy food delivery services in Shanghai click here.

Q. When did you start your Shanghai Food Delivery service?
I wrote the business plan, raised the money and launched the business in a relatively short time – all in 1999.

Sherpa's food delivery Shanghai

Q. How many cities does Sherpa's now offer food delivery services in?
Three: Shanghai, Suzhou, and Beijing. Beijing is relatively new for us, we started our Chaoyang business last year. We were in Hangzhou briefly, but when we launched Beijing we needed to shift resources away from Hangzhou to focus on the growing business in Beijing.
Q. How many Shanghai restaurants do you work with?
I know (from our website front page) that we currently work with 261 brands. Specifically in Shanghai I think it is around 120 brands.

Q. How many food delivery Shanghai couriers do you now have?
Around 100.
Q. How many average food delivery Shanghai orders does Sherpa's make each day?
Around 1,500 deliveries.
Q. What hours do you deliver?
10:30am is when we start processing orders, and we take our last order at 10:30pm.

Mark Secchia, himself a Shanghai expat, established Sherpa's to deliver food to expat homes

Q. How does a Shanghai Expat order food delivery Shanghai from Sherpa's?
The same way our Chinese customers do! They can call our hotline at 6209-6209, or they can visit our website at and they can eventually use our (ios) app that will launch around the middle of 2014.
Q. Many Shanghai restaurants had a tough time during the H7N9 Bird Flu outbreak in the spring of 2013. Did this affect your food delivery business in anyway?
The bird flu was an interesting time. We actually could not satisfy the demand for poultry that our customers had!

In a somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction, the Shanghai food authorities quickly cracked down on the poultry supply chain, and many restaurants were simply unable to procure fresh chicken. Many refused to serve chicken that had been frozen. Customers on the other hand didn't seem to shy away from eating chicken as much during that period.

For Sherpa's, SARS in 2002-2003 was an even more interesting time for food delivery Shanghai. The demand for Sherpa's was very high at that time, as many customers just didn't want to leave home.

The interesting part for us was hospitals. At that time we were serving mostly expats, many of who were in the hospital for non-SARS related reasons and our hospital deliveries went up greatly (I am guessing) because they felt they may contract SARS from the food there. But our food delivery Shanghai couriers didn't want to enter hospitals for fear of getting SARS. We had to sort out a lot of very creative solutions in order to get the food to the customer.
Q. Have the many Chinese food safety issues affected your food delivery Shanghai business in anyway?
Our couriers need to annually renew their safety and hygiene license, but that is not a very rigorous process.

When we add restaurants, we always send one of our expat food tasters (of whom I am one) out to the venue. We track a lot of metrics, one of which is whether the kitchen is clean. Many restaurants will not let a random customer in their kitchen, so we also use a lot of Internet scouring to determine if customers have complained about the quality or safety of the food.

Unfortunately the sanitation smiley faces rarely seem to be a true indicator of the cleanliness of the kitchens.

Doing as many deliveries as we do, we of course get food poisoning complaints, but to date we have never gotten two complaints in a short time from any one restaurant. If that ever happened, we would immediately stop delivering from that venue and conduct an independent review.

Sherpa's has around 100 food couriers in Shanghai alone

Q. What kind of extreme Shanghai weather situations affect your delivery business?
In heavier rain, we get about three or four times the demand that we have during nice weather periods. This makes it extremely difficult to cope.

A few years ago I tried to assemble a SWAT team, which stood for Sherpa's Weather Attack Team. It was supposed to be a group of trained couriers that would be available only in rainy days. Then, we went over 40 days in a row without rain... so I scrapped that idea.

This year we started doing a minimum order in the rain. That has helped ease up the pressure a little bit.
Q. How many years have you been an expat in Shanghai?
18 years.

Q. What are some of your favorite Shanghai Resorts for weekend getaways; Moganshan?

You hit the nail on the head: Moganshan is a sure favorite! My wife and I have been going up there for almost 15 years now. I am getting ready to take our daughter camping at Dong Ji Island in two weeks, so maybe I'll add that as a future favorite.

Q. Is your family worried about the worsening Shanghai Air pollution?
Of course: aren't we all? Of particular concern to us is our couriers' health in Beijing. We sent a few of our couriers from Shanghai to Beijing to do some cross-training and they came back with sore throats and a new respect for Shanghai's (relatively) clean air.

Q. Have you bought any air purifiers for your home?
Yes, we use Alen air filters, and quite a few green plants.

Q. Do you use water filters or shower filters in your home?
We have a GE master water filter for all water, and a 7-step osmosis filter for our drinking water. When our daughter was born, I sent water samples to the USA to test our filtered water against a Big Blue jug of Shanghai bottled drinking water (from an international company that would not be pleased if I named them here).

The water filters beat the blue bottles soundly; although both were perfectly safe and well within limits.
Q. Have you used any of the local Shanghai hospitals and Shanghai doctors? What do you think of them?
The Children's' hospital (ÉrTóng YīYuàn 儿童医院) on Beijing Lu has excellent doctors and facilities. However, if you do not like the triage-style care of the standard care section, you can skip that and go directly to the VIP section of the same hospital, which is a bit more expensive, but not too much more (and the insurance company pays the same percentages). The entrance is opposite, and a bit to the left of the main emergency room entrance.

But plan your visits wisely, for first-time users you must check in during normal business hours. If you have been before, they are available 24 hours, so it might be a good idea to go first and register your child during the week, just in case.

Shanghai Food Delivery Services

  1. Organic vegetable delivery services in Shanghai click here
  2. Wattz Shanghai
  3. Sauce Pan
  4. Nosh Delivery
    Tel: 6495 0307
  5. Sherpas
    Tel: 6209-6209
  6. Meal Bay
    Tel: 6288-0004

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