1. Swipe to order: Food apps have transformed food service landscape in India

Swipe to order: Food apps have transformed food service landscape in India

The days when pizza was all one could order in are long over, says writer.

By: | New Delhi | Published: May 14, 2017 2:36 AM
The delivery time is under 45 minutes, which is essential since the food has to be fresh.

Earlier this week, I read an immersive profile of a young actor on Broadway, who is tipped to win a Tony later this month for his portrayal of a 17-year-old who suffers from mild anxiety and a predilection for lying. It was a searing portrait of an actor at work, the creative life as it’s in this century—the need for hours of silence, the hunched-over posture on stage that threatened to overwhelm his natural gait, the cupping that marked his back (a means of relieving body ache), the days of silence to rest his singing voice and the lonely nights in his New York apartment, where he orders his meals from Seamless.

As a writer of stories, I am familiar with the immersive process, but it was the last detail that resonated. In the past few years, the food service landscape in India has changed dramatically. One has tried and tested the various options available to hungry users with the palate of a gourmet. The days when pizza was all one could order in are long over—and thank god for that. Personally, a combination of three apps have served as a saving grace on those long days when the writing compels me to withdraw from interaction. But first, a little something about Seamless. Launched in 1999, it’s yet to make it to India. In the beginning, it was meant for companies, which wanted to order food from restaurants and caterers. In 2005, this Web-based application was made available to individual users.

Coming back to food apps I depend on, I first heard of Foodpanda a little over three years ago from a group of 20-somethings I was working on a project with. In the middle of the long working day, our diverse tastes dominated the conversation when a group discussion on what to order for lunch took place—someone was on a diet, another had wheat allergy and yet another couldn’t be bothered. The days of yore of settling on a cuisine, the collaborative approach to dining together, was quickly dismissed by my younger colleagues. Everyone could order what they wanted. I remember the relief I felt at the winding down of this long conversation. Foodpanda, however, was yet to find its feet at that time, so our flights of culinary fancy were culled. Nonetheless, the discovery was a welcome one. The Germany-based company has since found ground and provides a “seamless” delivery experience now. Its interface is clean and easy to use, the deals of the day are well highlighted and the payment process is smooth.

The other user-friendly food app is Swiggy. It’s a little more upscale than Foodpanda. One presumes it has a filtering system for restaurants that make it to its site. Here, one hires a delivery person as opposed to ordering from a restaurant. The convenience therein is that you can order from multiple restaurants and the person will pick up the dishes for you. It’s personalised as well. Swiggy will advise you on the name and co-ordinates of the delivery person and if an item is unavailable, it’s not unusual for the person to call from the restaurant and change your order or have the money credited back to your account. Founded by a group of IIT/IIM graduates, Swiggy is all-Indian. And it effectively translates the experience of sending out someone to pick up a food order from one’s favourite restaurant back in the day to a swipe on the smartphone.

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My latest discovery in online ordering has been Fresh Menu and it has, for the time being, eclipsed the other two options. Here, it’s a little different. The menu is fixed, but changes everyday. It’s curated by real chefs, boasting of dishes from around the world. A fresh menu promises fresh ingredients and it even has calorie-counted offerings for the health-conscious. The delivery time is under 45 minutes, which is essential since the food has to be fresh. The rotating menu may make you miss some of the dishes that become favourites, but on the flip side, if you are up to sampling cuisine from around the world, Fresh Menu’s a la carte-sized portions are a great primer. A well-priced, fulfilling meal under Rs 400, including dessert, is what you can expect. And its high-quality, delicious offerings make one feel less guilty about eating out so often.

Advaita Kala is a writer, most recently of the film Kahaani. She is also a former hotelier having worked in restaurants in India and abroad

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