By Shriya Roy
One of the worst affected sectors due to the coronavirus has been the F&B industry. With the virus having put a halt on people stepping out of their homes, fine dining especially has been struck a big blow. But high-end restaurant and hotel chains are now reinventing and finding new ways to reach consumers with the help of technology.
Interestingly, these places are no longer depending on delivery partners like Swiggy and Zomato to get their trademark dishes delivered to their customers’ homes. From frozen dishes to DIY meal kits, high-end hotels and restaurants are now delivering their food themselves. Many have also embraced the ‘cloud kitchen’ concept in the face of the uncertainty that looms over the future of the dine-in business. What’s aiding them is technology, which is at the forefront of all these initiatives.
Take, for instance, Taj Hotels (a subsidiary of the Indian Hotels Company Limited, or IHCL). The brand’s culinary experience can now be home-delivered. IHCL, south Asia’s largest hospitality company has announced the launch of its online food delivery platform called Qmin. Through it, consumers can order food from the brand’s five-star restaurants, including Golden Dragon and Souk from Taj Mahal Palace, Thai Pavilion and Trattoria from President, and Ming Yang from Taj Lands End, among others.
The mobile application is set to go live on July 25. Customers in Delhi-NCR can, however, call and order food till then. “This addition will augment the group’s food and beverage offerings, leveraging a digital platform to address a growing consumer demand for online gourmet food delivery services. Qmin will scale up in the months ahead to include the gourmet Qmin Shop with delicatessen-based food choices,” says Puneet Chhatwal, managing director and chief executive, Indian Hotels Company.
Another major five-star brand delivering food is Oberoi Hotels. All of Oberoi’s hotels around India, in fact, already had a home delivery system in place. The food ordered online or via call by a customer is carried in the hotel car and delivered at their doorstep by the hotel’s service professionals.
Restaurant company Lite Bite Foods, which owns brands like Punjab Grill, Zambar, Tres and You Mee, has also launched a food delivery app called FooGo, as well as introduced a cloud kitchen in Delhi. Then there is Impresario Handmade Restaurants, which owns popular joints like Smoke House Deli and Social, which has launched a tech-enabled platform for online ordering of food. Through it, consumers can directly order food through a WhatsApp-enabled link—the food will be delivered by the company’s delivery persons. Other popular brands like Faasos, Behrouz Biryani and Oven Story, operated by Rebel Foods, have also scaled up their apps and delivery mechanism amid the pandemic.
Allset, a US-based food pre-ordering platform, has gone ahead and launched a redesigned app, which makes it easier for diners to find and order food from local restaurants. No-contact pickup and contactless dine-in options are available that allow diners to view the menu, order, pay and tip before they enter the restaurant. The new features make the takeout and dine-in experience seamless.
A similar experience is being provided by Shoocal, an Indian pre-ordering and table reservation app, which aims at giving a wait-free dining experience at the nearest restaurant through its pre-ordering feature. In the wake of the social distancing norms, the app has added some latest features, providing an end-to-end contactless dining experience. A digital menu of the restaurant is made available to customers via a QR code placed on each table. Customers place an order by choosing a dish of their choice directly from the digital menu and a contactless pay service enables them to pay through an online wallet of their choice.
Global coffee chain Starbucks, which already had its personal mobile app, has made changes to it to enable delivery and a contactless experience. With the help of the new application, which will soon roll out in India, customers can place takeaway orders, customise them, pay online and pick them up later from the stores. The new app also allows customers to pre-order and pick up or scan a QR code outside the store to place their order. Curbside pickup from one’s car will also soon become possible. The popular brand has moved from ‘Sip and Stay’ to ‘Grab and Go’. According to reports, Starbucks plans to accelerate its digital experience and close up to 400 company-owned stores over the next 18 months.
McDonalds’ delivery app McDelivery has also added a contactless delivery feature to its pre-existing user interface. The food chain ramped up its mobile app delivery service, as lockdown and restrictions forced people to remain indoors. The app also gives customers personalised offers on the basis of their buying behaviour and preferences.
With major brands, hotels and restaurants focusing on their own personal digital platforms to keep customers engaged and services running, food delivery services like Zomato, Swiggy seem to have tough competition ahead.