Showing posts with label Restaurants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Restaurants. Show all posts

08 May, 2021

The E-commerce conundrum in Food Delivery

I was present at the India Retail Forum in 2012 at Mumbai’s Renaissance Hotel. The annual event was a carnival of sorts for Retailers across the country. Images Retail, the magazine publisher’s flagship event attracted thousands of retail enthusiasts every year and the year 2012 was a landmark one. This was when there was a cooling down in the Indian Retail story which scaled peak heights at the time. An estimated 350+ Malls were operational all over India and another 300 were in the making. India was touted to have 1,000 operational Malls by the year 2020 (which didn’t happen, obviously). Each mall would have atleast 250+ vanilla stores, 5-6 Anchor tenants and High Street rents had doubled in less than a decade. 

During an interactive session, Mr. Kishore Biyani, Founder and CEO of the Future Group was asked what went wrong with the group – this was the period the Group saw one of its toughest times in their history ever since they started operations in 1987 with their first ever company Manz Wear Pvt. Ltd. which sold suiting and shirting in Calcutta by the name and style of “Pantaloons” which was a combo-word of Pants and Patloons. Kishore Ji quipped that “they wanted to be everything to everyone” and hence a few things collapsed while a few stood tall and successful. The group’s e-commerce outing FutureBazaar.com was a colossal failure and couldn’t compete with a start-up named “Flipkart” (in 2012-13). So ironic looking back now. Their attempts to go “phygital” just didn’t work. Grocery e-commerce was unheard off and hyperlocal as a strategy didn’t even exist or was scripted. 


From running neighbourhood grocery shops measuring 1,000 sft. to running the Central chain of Malls across India, a hypermarket which redefined grocery and household products shopping in India, food courts and home improvement stores, joint-ventures with F&B chains and even a chain of kiosks by the name “ChaMosa” , which as the name suggests sold Chai, Samosas and may things more, the group was in to every format of retail which was in the book and which wasn’t. But the smart and suave entrepreneur that he is, Kishore ji exited his first love – “Pantaloons” store chain for Rs. 1,600 Crores to Aditya Birla Retail and pared an equal amount of debt driving the company back to success, profits and growth, eventually. 


Same is the case right now with many restaurants who wish to manage door delivery of food to customers. Off late, there has been a growing disquiet between the F&B houses – chains as well as neighbourhood standalone ones with the Food Tech companies such as Zomato, Swiggy among others. And the main bone of contention is that the tech platforms are overcharging the businesses – ranging from 20-45% towards discovery, discounts and delivery of food items to customers. What the restaurants believe is that these companies are mere delivery platforms. What the Food Tech companies are – are much beyond that. 


In India, eating out is “entertainment”. People dress up, wear make-up, connect with family and friends to step out for a meal – whether it is to celebrate a birthday or anniversary, salary weekend or just a casual outing. The premium that bars, pubs and restaurants have been commanding for “dining in” in India is not just for the great food, but also for providing an enjoyable and safe setting for individuals and cohorts of people to spend their time. So, more the premium a location is, the more expensive is the food (a cup of Coffee or Dal-Roti at a local restaurant vs. a  premium restaurant in a Mall, or a Star hotel & so on!). 


Assuming that patrons would keep paying more for the “setting” coupled with decent food, many restaurants across India have been charging a premium which has only been on the rise over the years. Even in a fiercely competitive category like pizzas – where Dominos specialises in take-aways vs. PH offering world-class dining options, prices of pizzas have remained more or less the same though Dominos saves immensely serving pizzas even to in-house guests in corrugated boxes with plastic chairs and tables. The likes of McD or BK have not been able to churn out profits like elsewhere in the world due to this continued focus on the restaurant format, the ambience and expected service standards. For Ex., India is probably the only country where we consumers expect someone to clear the paper packaging on which Burgers and Colas are served. So, the “cost of housekeeping” increases the business cost.


Now that consumers have been used to door delivery of F&B, mostly during the last 12 months and even before the pandemic began, the footfalls at restaurants for dining has dwindled. Sadly, most restaurant chains have not kept up with times and have followed their traditional ways of operating the business with the same kind of dine-in behaviour which today, unfortunately is becoming an expensive affair. With a total lockdown announced across some of the major towns in the country, restaurants are unable to operate the dining facility though the Government has allowed multiple delivery options. 


Now, what the Food-Tech companies have done, obviously is to charge consumers for deliveries and also charge a hefty commission from restaurants to catch-up on their hereditary losses – though am not sure if this model is sustainable. Even when the “Unlock” began around Aug. ‘20, many restaurants failed to convert their business model with a deeper focus on takeaways and deliveries, instead waited with bated breath for customers to keep pouring in. Until the second wave hit us and which has hit us very, very hard that there is no looking back now and consumers becoming weary to venture out, even after the so-called second wave slows down sometime in Jun. ‘21.


The ongoing tussle between the Restaurants and Food-Tech companies (I refuse to call them delivery partners because they are not just that) has reached a tipping point now that many restaurants are pulling off some of these platforms and are instead using pure-play delivery partners such as Dunzo, Shadowfax, Delhivery among others and / or are merely using their staff and waiters to deliver the food items. To opine the least, this is a disaster in the making.  The waiters and staff are not the “delivery person” material as their skill sets are quite different. But now, due to an imminent loss of livelihood, I believe they would double up their roles until they find their fitment elsewhere. 


To believe that each one is cut-out for the other’s business model is a myth. We saw how many so-called “Cloud kitchens” were created by the Food-Tech platforms which have not grown beyond a point. I am no one to judge but I guess, it’s best for the service providers to simply focus on their core skills so we consumers can keep at it without breaking this chain of discovery, ordering and reordering. Whether the players are listening to, is anyone’s guess.

18 October, 2020

Revenge travelling is here to stay

I returned back home on 17th Oct. 2020 after a two week business trip across Karnataka. With this, I have completed 9,400 kms of travel by road since 10 Aug. 2020 when I stepped out of home for the first time after a 150-day self-imposed exile, thanks to multiple lockdowns due to the Covid-19 Virus outbreak. The rubber I have burned is mostly self-driven and partially chauffer driven. But for a short trip to visit some of my favourite temples in September, all other trips have been on work. I have met already 80% of my 140-member sales team at Levista Coffee across TN & KA these last two months and as I write this, my Samsonite is gleefully smiling at me for yet another trip that begins Tuesday and thereafter. 


Revenge Travel, as the term has claimed obnoxity in the recent past is here to stay, I guess. If trends are to be believed (and seen personally!), I guess it is so. To begin with, some hard numbers issued by the Oil Industry in India indicate the same. A 1.65% & 1.5% increase in Diesel and Petrol consumption compared to last year, same period. A very small single percentage number of growth but the digits make it look more attractive. For the record, India consumes 3x Diesel to Petrol, noticeably because most of the goods movement in India is by trucks and they are almost 100% Diesel-driven. Due to the surge in work related travel to scores of us and a lack of public transportation, even taxis (mostly diesel consuming ones) are back in demand while a small portion of personal vehicles (like mine) use diesel as well. 


Sale of Petrol grew to 982,000 tons in the first half of October, up from 967,000 tons in the same period in 2019 and 968,000 tons in the first fortnight of Sep. 2020 while Diesel sales rose to 2.65 million tons in the first fortnight of October from 2.43 million tons a year back and 2.13 million tons in the first half of Sep. 2020. With the Navarathri / Dassera / Pujo festivities lined up in the second fortnight of October and a subdued yet enthusiastic Deepavali in the anvil, it seems that fuel consumption is going to continue to rise. 


Another noticeable point is the upward trend in Fastag usages, from Rs. 1,800 Cr. in Feb. 2020 to approx. Rs. 1,700 Cr in Aug. 2020. And this, even as I see fewer vehicles in the dedicated Fastag lanes compared to the “cash lanes” across several Toll Plazas where I have travelled the last two and half months. One obvious negative trend is the dwindling numbers at highway restaurants, cafés and pit-stops. From the nondescript coffee kiosks dotted along the highways to the more organised eating joints, there is a significant drop in numbers, save for a select few which are in high demand due to scarcity of outlets in the vicinity. 




Interestingly, I saw a number of vehicles parked aside the Highways and people eating off plates, perhaps with home-cooked food – a trend which was the “only” way before the driving-down trends began around a decade back. The otherwise famous cafés which witness a huge surge in visitors riding their prized motorcycles or cavalcades of cars with bunches of friends and families is sorely missed, quip restaurant managers and owners.


Hotels that provide lodging are also seeing a growth in occupancy levels albeit still less than 50% of pre-Covid levels which used to hover around 65% on an average but for weekends where select properties were lucky with a full house. I still wonder if the entire room is fully sanitized, linens washed off after every guest departs – not just an expensive affair but also laborious, one reason why I have been cautious about where I retire for the night during my travels. And the F&B areas of these hotels are no different with social distancing of tables and limited numbers of Chairs per table to avoid crowding. Most restaurants avoid Buffet – which has been proven to be one of the fastest ways to spread the dreaded virus, especially with a number of people sharing crockery and cutlery.


As clichéd as it sounds, “Revenge Travel” is here to stay. Only difference is that most of the Tourism business will be Domestic and the Indian Hospitality Industry cannot ask for more.

05 September, 2020

Let’s rebuild the Economy – Ourselves

After a self imposed exile at home in the garb of WFH for over 150 days, I finally stepped out of home and moved to Bangalore last month to join my “real office”. I also travelled to Kushal Nagar in Coorg where our company’s Headquarters and Plant are located for a review with my Management. All through my two weeks at Bangalore, I was pleasantly surprised and motivated how we are ourselves building back lost time, money and economy. For instance, we had full attendance at office and also ensured all of us wear face masks while seated. Every alternate chair in the Meeting room is left empty (so fewer persons and therefore the meetings end early too!). Usage of hand sanitisers, and most importantly washing hands frequently is encouraged to ensure this is rather a “habit formation” in the long run. Cleanliness is Godliness, someone said long ago and remains relevant all along. 



I travelled across two major parts of Tamil Nadu last week, to Coimbatore and Madurai to meet my team members, Distributors as well as for market visits. Same protocol, another precinct. Nothing changed. The hotels have accepted the new norm, so have Guests. Food is served outside the room as per WHO protocol and the guest must take it inside their rooms themselves. Buffet is off the menu and breakfast is served in the room. Works for all of us plus the added advantage of “NIL wastage” at the buffet counter. Limited and minimal contacts with other people around works to everyone’s favour after all. 



This week, my wife and I decided to travel by road to visit a few of our favourite temples to seek the blessings of our beloved gods. We departed on Tuesday morning even as the TN Govt. opened up the doors of all religious places in the state. We were not just surprised but also impressed with the steps taken by the Government and the penultimate cooperation by devotees. We witnessed this first hand not just at one but across some of the oldest and perhaps, otherwise most populous temples. For Ex., the Srirangam temple, the world’s largest temple complex witnesses at least 30,000 visitors on a regular day. However, now is a different story with less than 1% of that number of visitors being allowed everyday. Still, the devotees maintained strict social distancing and followed norms, while at the entry inside, temperature check has been made mandatory. Well, that’s not accurate, quip many. But then, do we have a choice of shutting down everything for some more time to come? 



We travelled around 1,100 kms over 5 days and stopped by at least a dozen restaurants. Almost everywhere, customers and patrons seem to be following self-discipline which is the key to combat this virus which apparently is here to stay for some more time to come. 



What was pleasant to see was that even in the smallest of Tier 3 villages, locals understand the reason to wear a mask and the reasoning not to touch others, walk in groups or sneeze in public. The awareness created all along by the Media and the Governments is impressive although there is a surge in unruly motoring skills in city roads as well as on Highways – especially 3-4 persons on a 2-Wheeler and most of them not wearing Helmets which goes unchecked by the authorities. Well, we gain a few brownies and lose some ourselves. Sad part of humankind.


Ultimately, to bring India back to it’s foot is the duty for each of her citizens and beyond a point, I believe the Government can do very little beyond disbursing loans and doling out subsidies. While the Central and State Governments are doing their best despite so much negativity around, I personally believe it is up to each one of us to pick up the broken, leftover pieces and push the economy upwards. If not anything, this is just another form of patriotism and duty to the nation. Needless to say, we need to ensure safety precautions for ourselves as well as to our surroundings. And for me, I filled up Diesel full tank today even as I entered my home garage, ready for the next drive. I pledge to do my bit. I have Miles to go, after all.

22 September, 2019

Howdy Slowdown?

Flipkart commenced operations in India about a decade ago. For the FY 2017-18, the Annual T/o of the company was Rs. 24,000 Crores (about US $4 Billion) while Amazon India has a turnover of Rs. 12,000 Crores for the same period. Swiggy earned around Rs. 442 Crores for the previous FY and Zomato added Rs. 1,340 Crores. Industry Leader in the Furniture segment Urban Ladder reported a top line of Rs. 200 Crores for the previous year. Offline Retail Giant Future Group has an annual turnover of Rs. 30,000 Crores across various formats from Grocery to Electronics. Reliance Retail on the other hand has a combined turnover of Rs. 100,000 Crores of which 70% comes from Fuel Retailing and Jio, the data cum telecom company which is part of the retail entity. Ola, the cab hailing company clocked a turnover of Rs. 2,200 Crores while Uber India has an approx. annual turnover of little less than 1,000 Crores last fiscal. Phew.

So, why am I enlisting these turnover figures here?


Because, we are complaining of an Economic Slowdown. FMCG companies, Retailers, Automobile Manufacturers and many other consumer facing companies (and their backend suppliers) have all been complaining of a slowing growth in their businesses. As is the case most often, the Government is being blamed for the mess that we are supposedly in, right now. 

Reliance Retail & the Future Group together account for over Rs. 60,000 Crores which is almost 2% of the total estimated Retail Industry in India (about US $ 500 billion). Add Amazon & Flipkart and the overall business from new channels has increased tremendously over the years. The total pie of the Organised Retail Industry as well as the total consumption market have increased over the past decade and a half from less than 5% to nearly 12% currently. While ITC, Britannia, HUL and others have seen a slide in their sales, remember how Patanjali is raking close to Rs. 10,000 Cr in turnover and is aggressively followed by the likes of Dabur & Himalaya!

E-commerce has played a pivotal role in increasing the overall consumption market in India – selling products online and delivering at the doorstep at the most comfortable time for consumers, service offering (such as booking plumbing & carpentry services) and of course transportation including local mobility as well as ticket bookings across modes of transport. 


While Swiggy and Zomato deliver lakhs of food parcels daily, the restaurants have seen an average 15-20% of their business coming from these channels with a marginal increase in their total business as well. Hundreds of restaurants which were invisible are now able to showcase their products on the Food Delivery Apps and have eventually taken away some of the market share of popular restaurants, thereby curtailing footfalls to restaurants as well as through online orders.

With millions of rides fulfilled everyday by Ride hailing apps in India, have you ever seen an Auto Rickshaw driver starving off business? In fact, thousands of new Autos have been sold. New companies like MG Motors & Kia have set up plants and newer models are outselling older versions. Just that the outdated models like i10 and Indica don’t have any takers. Fortuners, XUV500 & Audis and Beamers aren’t selling short anymore! 


The overall consumption market hasn’t shrunk, rather newer channels and opportunities have opened up. The turnover numbers in the first paragraph are to showcase how much new business has been added over the past decade. The slowdown is more in our minds and a measured approach towards over-spending, which is anyway an inherent way of living.  

And btw, the headline has nothing to do with the so called “Economic Slowdown” but the Indian PM is addressing an event in the US this weekend and the name of the event is “Howdy Modi”, so I thought I would use it to entice my readers.

27 August, 2019

Food Fiesta! But Free Food?

My favourite haunt in Chennai for a great Filter Coffee & South Indian snacks continues to be the iconic “Woodlands Restaurant” on RK Salai, Chennai which doesn’t have a towering personality quite literally (pun intended) like it’s neighbour Hotel Savera (which is among the first 5-Star Hotels in the city). But patrons and lovers of the third generation restaurant brand which runs a single branch in the city for over 5 decades is a sight to reckon. On a Weekend, one has to wait at least 30 mins if you are in a group of 4 or more, especially after 7pm. Around 9.15pm, the Manager would courteously inform you to look out elsewhere for dinner since the restaurant would take its last order by 10pm and that there would be no space for seating anymore. Call it brand arrogance or customer affinity; I term it the latter. For the love of Customers, that they would either come in early and dine their heart full or stay and dine, whichever suits them from time to time. Trust me, dining here isn't cheap; a table for four adults could cost upwards of Rs. 1,500 for dinner. Also, this is perhaps the only standalone restaurants in Chennai (or even in India) where you would hardly find boys in T-Shirts of various colours, Orange or Red or Black waiting to pick up food. For, this one restaurant never “logged in” to the Food Apps or their Loyalty Programs (namesake I say!). 


Two weekends back, we went for a family dinner at a leading Chinese restaurant in town. We logged on to an App which offered FLAT 50% off the Bill if we purchased an entry fee of Rs. 25 for each of us. Apparently, they termed is as Table Reservation Fee, which we anyway accepted. To our bad luck, there were only 3 coupons left to buy but we were 4. So I called the restaurant and requested if they could accommodate us. My friendly bangali babu accepted to allow the 4 of against 3 coupons and to my surprise, we saved a whopping 50% off the bill on a cheque of Rs. 2,200. The next week, I went out again with my classmates where I carefully booked a popular restaurant in the heart of South Chennai, known for its exotic fare and of course obnoxious prices. Again, I saved over Rs. 1,000 during this outing. At both instances, the restaurant was not even 25% full - the former was a dinner & the latter was Luncheon. Just when I was planning the next visit last weekend with an extended family and close friends (a larger crowd, perhaps), the NRAI announced a “Logout” Campaign to reduce their losses. Thankfully. For there was no end to this practise of subsidising patrons for what they would ideally charge others. Membership or otherwise, a 50% off on Bill was simply too much to give away as discounts.

Now compare the two glaring examples. As I always say, it’s a game of David Vs. Goliath, with the smaller, less-organised players being the Goliath collectively. How does it make sense to offer a food item on a discount when it is cooked with loads of investment - time and money included and of course with a lot of passion and love! It makes no sense to offer F&B at lower prices than what they are meant to be, except for lean times such as Happy Hours when people would prefer not to consume or to sell-out certain items at a discount to ensure there was no wastage at the end of the business day. From the beginning, I have watched closely how restaurants were getting caught in the whirlwind that the Food Aggregators were hatching on them, sadly. A friend who runs a large restaurant chain in Coimbatore was clear that he would neither discount their signature food nor allow the Apps to do so. And he, along with the local Federation members has been successful till date, save for a 10% discount once in a while. 


Most Restaurants complain that their bottomline has not seen a significant leap although the turnover has gone up significantly, helping them to reach more customers including many new users although there’s no guarantee that they would order at full price or even visit the restaurants. My hunch has been right – when there are no discounts, people order less frequently and lesser portion sizes. And the opposite in the contrary. This is not specific to India but a human quality called “greed”. Isn't it not common that we see people buying a lot more clothes during End of Season Sale even though they may not be sure whether they would ever wear it, even once. 

I have never believed personally in the theory of discounting in Retail, be it Grocery or Fashion, Food or Furniture. Some products like Electronics outdate faster or Room Inventory at Hotels perish, so perhaps yes. But then, most businesses believe Discounts attract Customers more than their products. I think it’s otherwise. If a user doesn’t see value in your pricing, then don’t decrease it, rather increase the value offering. 

After all,

Price is what you Pay;
Value is what you derive. 

26 December, 2017

Highway Dining & Holiday rush!


I was among the lakhs of people who left our homes last Saturday as the long Christmas weekend and Christmas holidays began. Reports from all over the country in major cities mentioned long traffic snarls at the Toll booths located just outside the city. At Chengelpet Toll booth which is about 70 kms from where I live in Chennai, the queue of vehicles was for almost a kilometer with over 300 vehicles standing to pass through. We managed to cross in about 20 mins but that was just the start. For the next 100 kms all the way up to Villupuram, I was driving at an average speed of 70 kmph. Perhaps the slowest I have ever driven on this highway that I traverse once a month, at least.


Almost every notable restaurant on the way was filled to the brim with vehicles and people who were piling up like there was some major catastrophe coming up in Chennai. Almost all of us, like really, thought leaving before 6 am would help. Alas. Just that too many of us thought the same thing and ended up crowding toll booths, roads and restaurants. When I finally managed to stop at 9am for breakfast, there were about 70 vehicles and at least 200 people in the restaurant where we ended up. We were informed 30 mins waiting time to get a table. So, I preferred to walk up to the adjacent restaurant which is self-service, hoping things would be faster. When I finished breakfast with family, it took us almost the same time as it would have at the other restaurant. Murphy’s Law. We left after an hour plus break and drove for 3 hours and ended up at India’s top Restaurant Chain for South Indian food and glee, things were not better. This place was even more crowded than we had anticipated. Table service again and it took almost an hour plus for us to finish the grub and leave.


I asked Murugan (name changed), a waiter at the restaurant whether they expected such large turnouts and he replied in the negative. Yelling customers were a norm at most of these places who perhaps didn’t realise that some of the staff haven’t even had their breakfast, forget their lunch. As a Retail guy for 20 years, I truly empathized for the staff but I could do nothing more than wait patiently. Kamala (name changed) was frying fresh Vadas at the restaurant where we had breakfast in the morning and she said she’s been at it since 5.30am. Felt bad for the thankless staff members who ensured we, the customers got out food on time, fresh and tasty.

What could have been done differently was a bit of planning. Here’s my short list;

  • ·      Make a simpler, lighter menu. Keep just the basics available so customers don’t have to think too hard to order, and at the same time, the kitchen staff are quick to prepare the stuff ready. Items like Idli and Vada, French Fies, Samosas and so on must be prepared almost continuously so it acts as a filler when patrons order
  • ·      Add more temporary tables and chairs, plastic ones or metal or whatever. Most customers wouldn’t really care the quality of your furniture when their main motive is to rush out of the restaurants
  • ·      At one restaurant where they profess self-service, I saw that the staff were adding accompaniments like chutney and sambhar to each plate along with the main dish. I suggest this could just be done away with. Focus on the main dish and leave the add-ons to the guests. Keep the chutney and sambhar on the tables and let the customers take as much as they want. Yes, there would be a bit of wastage but we all save time together. Also, avoid four varieties of chutneys, no one just cares, just one would do. Ensure you give less choice to guests but what just matters.
  • ·      Hire local boys and girls temporarily to clean the tables & toilets faster. Use good quality cleaning liquids so the tables don’t stink for the next guest. Toilets must be spic and span. Efficiency and speed are the key.
  • ·      Restaurants with larger spaces and staff can perhaps have someone to usher or a sort of token system or tables assigned against request. This would ensure guests don’t pile up at each table and keep staring at those dining, instead wait patiently till their table is ready.
  • ·      Kids – the biggest challenge to be addressed. Keep them engaged. Have a magician or a story teller or folk art. Nothing free to be offered but something to keep them engaged. Have some crayons and paint books at bay, so the kids can keep coloring and be a bit more engaged. Tried and tested is a large Tv screen with cartoon channels. Be sure the kids would be glued in. But ensure there is no remote around, so there is no flipping of channels and fighting amongst young ones.
  • ·      Men – keep them engaged as well. Set-up boys who can wash the windscreens and bumpers. A good driver always likes his Car clean. Well, almost. A tie-up with local shops to sell additives, car cleaning fluids etc. will ensure the boys and men spend more time there than waiting impatiently at the tables.
  • ·      Ensure your staff are taken care well. Meet each one of them personally and ask if they had breakfast, coffee or tea, lunch, snacks and dinner. And their medicines, if any for some may be diabetic or have other ailments. Show empathy, they need it now more than ever. They are, after all your Brand Ambassadors. Shower them love and they will pass it on to the Guests. Ignore them and that’s what the customers will get as well.
  • ·      At the end of the weekend, if your cash registers ring more than usual, send them home with small gestures such as gift packs of sweets. Make them feel proud that your guys achieved ever-highest sales during this weekend and motivate them. Remember, most people don’t work just for money, they need recognition.


These are some very simple hacks but can go a long way in Guest satisfaction. Holidays are always about memories and we as Retailers, especially the F&B guys make a dent on the memories that guests carry. If there is a delay more than usual time, people fret. But when you throw in something extra, customers mostly remember only that “extra” whether it is “extra happiness” or “extra irritation”. With increasing mobility these days, people are travelling more than ever and they will continue to remember what you offered.


Once again during the upcoming New Year weekend, the restaurants and highways are going to get full. I really hope some changes are undertaken by Restaurant owners small and big to ensure better handling of customers and of course, their own staff. Happy New Year! 

24 July, 2014

Online Dining

I have enjoyed my pizzas better at the restaurant that at home, all along. It is more to do with the fun of dining – you plan a trip to the pizzeria, a walk or a short drive usually, or even at a Mall after finishing retail therapy. I fondly remember the bottomless Coke and unlimited Pizzas at Pizza Corner in Chennai in the late 90s during my most cherished college days with my gang of friends. Have ever since been a fan of pizzas and the love has only been growing. Frankly, I like pizzas from different places, be it Dominos or Pizza Hut, California Pizza Kitchen or standalone indie restaurants. One of my most favourite of course has been from “Italia”, the fine dine restaurant at The Park, Bangalore. For me, Pizza is an all time snack. I am usually game for a pizza at any time of the day (or evening) although I avoid a heavy dinner of pizzas. In fact, the love of pizza is more because of the yummy accompaniments, the cheese garlic bread and an array of toppings, especially the gherkins and olives. Am not a big fan of coloured flavoured colas and would rather prefer a strong coffee if not a lemon ice tea to drown the heavy food.

What I like best is food to be served hot and fresh from the kitchen. Haven’t been a big fan of home delivery or takeaways since I feel that the freshness is somehow lost, especially the international fare such as pastas, pizzas etc. although Indian food is still doable – we have an option to reheat the curries and biryanis at home once again which can’t be done with pizzas and pastas. Have avoided ordering pizzas at home for a long time now since I have had not-so-great experiences in the past, but that was probably because I used to live in Bangalore where the ambient temperature outside is not conducive to serve hot food by road.

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This Football season, I decided to order pizzas at home. No, I don’t follow the game but why not enjoy the delicious offers provided by F&B Retailers! So, first it was Dominos followed by Pizza Hut. On the first occasion, the pizza arrived pretty late, almost 45 minutes since I ordered. I was very disappointed with all the promises made by the company on various media, but gave a benefit of doubt to the delivery boy – he must have had a lot of orders to fulfil and mine was probably the last one. So, I didn’t make an issue about it and just left it there. Yes, I would give them a try once again in future and I hope they live up to expectations.

On the next occasion, the pizzas were served hot and were in a consumable condition even after 20-30 minutes of being delivered at home. What was surprising was it was a Sunday and was the day of the “Final” match between the two teams. And yet, the pizzas were sent on time, well ahead of the promised time. They have a future customer for sure!

In both occasions, I used the mobile applications of both these companies. The UI for Dominos is a bit confusing while the one for Pizza Hut seemed much better. In fact, I had to switch over to the website while ordering for Dominos since that seemed to be a better option. The UI is perhaps not designed by retail experts and with consumer feedback, it lacks the sensibilities that customers look for, especially people of the older age and for women, both of these segments may not be very mobile savvy. Also, one of my friends quipped on his Facebook post recently how the delivery boys call a number of times to take directions. The Pizza companies can take a cue from Uber, the taxi service guys who have a GPS enabled map on their cell phones that help the drivers reach their destination without even calling once.

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Mobile App Zomato also integrates Home Delivery along with providing reviews about restaurants and they are growing rapidly not just in India, but also internationally. Overall, I guess online dining, or rather online ordering is a great way to reach out to customers. It is also non-intrusive in a way. There is no need to call a number and go through the menu being repeated often – the menu is just there on the mobile app or on the website and helps users to choose what they want quickly and easily. Once customers are used to it, they would rather prefer this option instead of calling on the phone, whenever they desire to order food home. So, go ahead and try ordering on your phone next time. And yes, do take a minute to share your feedback. Happy Dining…

10 years in Madras - A recap

It was on this day 10 years back I returned to Madras (by then it was renamed Chennai) - where I have grown up all my life, after a long sta...