No time to cook? How hotels and cloud kitchens prioritize safety, delivery of online food takeaways

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June 25, 2021 1:04 PM

From cloud kitchens to restaurants and luxury hotels and e-commerce platforms that deliver fresh fruits and vegetables, the pandemic has shaken up how the food preparation and contactless delivery ecosystem functions in tandem with the most stringent safety protocols.

weekend binge and bruncesWith cloud kitchens offering affordable options, the once-expensive dining out food bill can be easier on the pocket than ever before. (Image source: ITC Hotels Bengaluru]

If the pandemic has turned around and reinforced one major activity in the lives of people, it is the awareness that eating out is no more a casual activity or an easy choice to chill out with friends.

From cloud kitchens to restaurants and luxury hotels and e-commerce platforms that deliver fresh fruits and vegetables, the pandemic has shaken up how the food preparation and contactless delivery ecosystem functions in tandem with the most stringent safety protocols.

Serving COVID warriors: IHCL’s Qmin crosses significant milestone

Notably, IHCL recently announced that its culinary platform, Qmin, has crossed a significant milestone of delivering more than one million meals to healthcare providers who were battling the severe COVID-19 second wave. The Taj Public Service Welfare Trust spearheaded the initiative.

Terming this as ‘being in solidarity with the nation’ to fight the deadly pandemic and ‘keeping community at the heart of everything’, Gaurav Pokhariyal, Senior Vice President & Global head Human Resources IHC stated, “We remain grateful to our COVID warriors – the medical fraternity – for their relentless fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Notably, the outreach of the initiative covered 38 hotels in 12 cities spanning 10 states.

ITC’s Sustainable Approach to Meal Boxes

The pandemic has made celebrations more special and valued than ever before even as people take a cautious approach to stepping out of their homes. Hotels are aware of this continuing trend.

On Father’s Day, ITC Hotels Bengaluru rolled out ‘Weekend Binge’ with special delights that could be enjoyed at home itself. Segregating the vegetarian and non-vegetarian meal boxes based on the number of people (for two guests/four guests) is a smart way to minimize food wastage. Added to this, a variety of Father’s Day themed cakes, ‘I love you Dad’ brownies and Celebrating Dads cupcakes were on offer .

Noor Mahal Whatsapp Chatbot to solve guest queries

During the pandemic, adoption of contactless technology has become critical for the hospitality industry. Recently, Noor Mahal, Karnal launched the ‘Noor Mahal Whatsapp Chatbot’ which gives guests access to choose from smart rooms to contactless mobile check-in, smart controls and ensuring utmost safety and comfort as guest queries can be resolved through its Whatsapp Chatbot in real time.

Terming this as an expression of Noor Mahal’s main priority being ‘the safety and health of guests and team members’, Manbeer Choudhary, Chairman and Managing Director, Jewels Group of Hotels observed that the chatbot will function as a quick and convenient one-stop digital platform that offers hospitality and advisory services to its guests.

Hike in demand for mangoes in summer

Clearly, there is one thing that Indians across the country can confidently say is true: no matter which part of the country one is from, fresh fruits during summer are always in high demand, particularly mangoes.

Hotels, restaurants and cloud kitchens are conscious that people expect safety protocols to be strictly enforced even when they make a choice to dine out or order a takeaway or order online for perishable food items online.

According to Samiran Sengupta, Founder and CEO, JustMyRoots, “There is a hike in mango demand this year even after the pandemic situation which in itself conveys how much people crave mangoes. We recently delivered more than 2000kg of different mango varieties like Himsagar, Rasaalu, Himayat or Imam Pasand, and Banginapalli and continue to send it across different cities based on popularity and demand. All these mangoes are coming fresh from the orchards of West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. These sweet, pulpy mangoes are highly in demand.”

Despite the growing demand for ordering takeaways and an increasing visibility in the context of cloud kitchens, the lockdown has impacted food businesses across the country. Procurement of raw materials is a critical component that has impacted the delivery and supply chain for small food businesses and cloud kitchens.

Challenges for cloud kitchens amidst pandemic

Kallol Deb, Partner, at a Bengaluru-based cloud kitchen ‘BIRIYAN’, informs Financial Express Online, “With the lockdown and the imposed restrictions in Karnataka, it has become extremely inconvenient to run a food business. The impact is primarily felt with respect to the procurement of raw materials either due to unavailability of stock or sub par quality due to limited supply. This has a direct bearing on the quality of food we provide as we are severely dependent on our vendors for the supply of raw materials. Our staff also face difficulty in commuting as the lockdown forces us to change our schedule inorder to adhere to the lockdown timings which at times becomes inconvenient.”

Food is no longer about sitting down to enjoy a good meal but also about keeping loved ones safe and capturing moments and special celebrations without compromising on the stringent hygiene protocols that are now mandatory.

Are cloud kitchens the future?

With several challenges looming ahead ,can cloud kitchens still be considered as playing a key role in the future?

“It definitely is. It’s less resource intensive and allows budding entrepreneurs to work on innovative ideas and work on a smaller scale before going big. This gives them a buffer to take enough risks to ensure success without risking everything. Also, since cloud kitchens are economical to maintain we can provide greater quality of food at a much lower price. Overall, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages,” explains Kallol Deb.

For stakeholders in the food delivery ecosystem, the freshness of nutrients is now a key booster in terms of generating sales.

Samiran Sengupta, Founder and CEO, JustMyRoots observes, “As India’s first Perishable, Interstate, Food Supply Chain, we enabled an e-commerce platform which delivers pure nostalgia in the form of food across India and mangoes too are a part of it. All mangoes are directly sourced from the orchards, packaged and shipped with special packaging. So, the mangoes will reach you fresh in no time at all. Our staff have a strong sense of hygiene and cleanliness. During the pandemic, the team had to be extra cautious, remembering all the “MUST DOs,” such as using sanitized packaging, masks, gloves, and a variety of other items.”

Going forward, will the hybrid working model redefine the way professionals make food related choices?

Commenting on the future of food choices particularly in IT centric Bengaluru, Kallol Deb views the ongoing pandemic as paving the way for a radical shift in how many multinational companies are adopting a hybrid work-from-home model, thereby enabling smaller companies to do the same.

In his view, “Since these days, most professionals are hard pressed for time to prepare regular meals, they are forced to order online now, more often than not. They, however, are very particular about the quality of food and the hygiene being maintained at the outlet. Hence they prefer to order from places they are familiar with so as to minimize botched orders as much as possible.”

For professionals who want to stay focused on work and spend as little time as possible in the kitchen, it doesn’t get much easier than it is now. With cloud kitchens offering affordable options, the once-expensive dining out food bill can be easier on the pocket than ever before.

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