“We used Instagram to market the brands. The marketing costs are justified given that we are building the brands for the long term,” Bhanage said.
Pandemic-hit restaurants, which have been forced to bank on deliveries to sail through the Covid crisis, are launching their own ordering websites and servicing deliveries independently in a bid to reduce dependence on aggregators like Zomato and Swiggy.
A clutch of restaurants under the aegis of NRAI (National Restaurant Association of India) has partnered with tech companies DotPe and Thrive, which are providing them the technology support to build their own ordering links and enabling their discovery on Google and various social media platforms.
While restaurants do acknowledge the wide reach of Zomato and Swiggy, they are of the view that having direct ordering capabilities will help them save on the commission charges payable to the aggregators, which can sometimes go up to as much as 30% of the order value. Restaurateurs say that when customers order through their websites, they also get access to user data and feedback which accordingly help them to augment their services.
Gauri Devidayal, partner at Food Matters India, points out that when restaurants are in charge of the orders, they can offer personalised services while giving consumers the scope to customise their orders. “You cannot, for instance, pre-order on a Swiggy or Zomato. Their services are limited in that sense. They are tech companies, they are not in the business of F&B. They do not understand what consumers want,” Devidayal told FE.
Devidayal, who runs Mumbai-based dine-in brand The Table and four delivery only brands, said currently about 25% of her company’s total delivery revenues come from direct sales and 75% via aggregators. The firm that is aggressively marketing to promote direct ordering has its own network of delivery partners and delivery charges are added to the orders. “The aggregators can typically cater only within a radius of 7-10 km. If you have your own delivery fleet or partner with third party logistics, it allows you to go beyond that radius,” Devidayal added.
Hunger Inc Hospitality, which owns brands like The Bombay Canteen, O Pedro and Bombay Sweet Shop, logs about 80% of its orders through its own ordering platform. The firm has tied up with Thrive and fulfils deliveries through a mix of its in-house delivery network and third party logistics partners like Dunzo. “We have seen the shift in ordering patterns,” said founder & COO Yash Bhanage. The company recently launched two digital-only brands and chose to not list them with the aggregators. “We used Instagram to market the brands. The marketing costs are justified given that we are building the brands for the long term,” Bhanage said.
New Delhi-based The Big Chill Cafe, which introduced delivery services only amid the pandemic, has partnered with DotPe to power its ordering platform. Owner Aseem Grover said despite the challenges that managing an independent ordering website entails, the brand has been successfully able to service deliveries for a year. The company had initially considered getting registered with Zomato and Swiggy but eventually did not partner with them as they were not only seeking high commission charges but also not sharing customer data, Grover claimed. The firm was keen on continuing its direct relationship with its customers even during home delivery. “With aggregators, you cannot get direct feedback from patrons. That was a dealbreaker for us. Deliveries make up a small percentage of our turnover but it will keep us going during these times, help us pay our staff and sustain,” Grover said.
Riyaaz Amlani, CEO & MD, Impresario Handmade Restaurants, which owns brands like Smoke House Deli and Social, said when ordered directly, restaurants can have end-to-end control on the quality of the food and the way it is delivered. Amlani explained that when a customer orders directly from restaurants instead of aggregator apps, restaurateurs save a big chunk of money that would otherwise have gone as commissions to them, sometimes as high as 25-30%. Direct ordering allows restaurants to pass this saving on to their users. “We have a wide network of 57 restaurants across 16 Indian cities. Customers trust our brands which we have built over 20 years and that definitely helps us in matching the third-party aggregators in terms of customer reach and scale,” Amlani said.