In the face of the lockdown, restaurants and hotels are going the takeaway and delivery route
When the lockdown lifts and we are asked to step out, I am sure it will take us a good few days to acclimatise to crowds and traffic. In as much as times are dark, I will have to admit that the fresh weather, chirping birds in clear skies and the general absence of a social calendar do have me rebooting in ways unprecedented. But, and with no disrespect towards home food, I do miss a good meal outing every now and then.
Well, I am sure that F&B outlets miss us clients too. All businesses have ups and downs, but nothing like this has ever hit the hospitality (or any) industry since wartime and that was almost two lifetimes ago! Well, when things get tough, the tough pivot. Restaurants big and small are all finding ways to tackle the issues at hand—from cooking meals for a noble cause to creating value in the takeaway and delivery space. The most surprising entrant in the latter space would have to be Hyatt Regency in New Delhi.
Standalones have always been ahead in such manoeuvres. When they all started off, most standalones were impassioned projects, but few had the same resources, experience, skill set or even the ingredients to compete with hotels. Over time, eateries like Indigo (in its heyday), The Table in Mumbai and Artusi in New Delhi have managed to level the field. Standalones have always shown adaptability and flexibility in their way of working and, hence, have managed to survive and even thrive. Hotels may have scoffed contemptuously at them at one point, but over time, they too have felt the loss in business. This time around, the Corona lockdown has hit everyone where it hurts worst, which explains why even an institution like Hyatt Regency—one which has, possibly, the oldest and most formidable of eateries in the capital in their kitty—is changing lanes and finding new ways to reach patrons. And they have done so by jumping right on to the (delivery) wagon.
I ordered food from Hyatt Regency New Delhi and I didn’t spare any of their kitchens in my choices: a pizza from La Piazza, Japanese starters from TK’s and Asian mains from The China Kitchen. The order taker (possibly a manager or supervisor) was better informed than standard room service folk and was adept at pointing out choices that would fare better with the travel time factored in. For example, we went for a pesto pizza rather than a standard tomato base, as the flat crust would have gone soggy by the time it arrived.
The rest of the dishes were nostalgically spot on. It was like eating at the hotel, minus the ‘being there’ bit. But more than just ensuring that the food is prepared to signature recipes, they had taken a whole lot of other measures to ensure a satisfying experience—from the delivery boys being medically checked every morning to the chef team being stationed full-time in the hotel to avoid any chances of contamination. From the sanitation levels in the kitchen and delivery vehicles to the sterility of food containers, it was all surgically meticulous. The packaging was far better than your average delivery outlet. As for the pricing, it was, let’s just say, greatly justifiable for a petit feast of a meal at home, one of such standard and quality.
We wrapped the meal up with Hyatt’s signature chocolate truffle cake with enough left over to tide us over till the weekend. Would I do it again? Definitely. I would have spent more eating the same meal at the hotel because I would have also ordered alcohol, but here, I had the very affordable home bar to fall back on. And since I have always lamented the lack of a BYO option with a corkage fee in India, the idea of bringing the good food home instead just so that you can pair it your way is literally the equivalent of taking the well to the camel!
Other hotels may soon join in. I know the Taj has takeaway hampers available, from food to wellness. It shouldn’t be too long before, perhaps, a Dal Bukhara, too, turns up at our doorstep.
In the meantime, if you live in the capital and are facing a severe case of the general blues—since Monday or Saturday or any such timelines are no longer relevant—I advise therapy in the form of food, home-delivered right by the able team at Hyatt Regency. Sure, it’s a privilege, but we can all do with a little pampering sometimes.
The writer is a sommelier