It’s a food fight, let there be many winners
Fans say aggregators like Foodpanda and Swiggy have transformed the food habits of urban India. From experimenting with more cuisines to ordering in up to thrice a day (!) the culture is really changing. But when on the eve of Independence Day, the National Restaurant Association of India opted to #Logout of Dineout, Eazydiner, Magicpin, NearBuy, Zomato etc it threw the spotlight on the pulls and pressures of this cultural transformation. Everyone wants to be a winner here. But is that possible?
By one account over 1700 restaurants delisted from various online platforms over the last week, with the broad argument being that the deep discounting framework has fattened aggregators while putting an unsustainable squeeze on restaurant margins. For many restaurants, it hasn’t turned out to be the win-win proposition that was promised. Such tugs of war are of course being seen across sectors of the new app economy. What Ola and Uber did to the black and yellow taxis comes to mind immediately, and it is interesting that these ride-hailing companies have also gotten into food delivery, via Foodpanda and Uber Eats respectively.
But nobody dragged the restaurants into deals with the food aggregators. They came in voluntarily. If the terrain turned out to be tougher than they expected, adaptation, negotiation for better terms is still the only way forward. They shouldn’t be signing away more than they can afford, they should be using the app platforms to fill up the lean hours, if walk-ins have proved disastrous these are what they should be logging out of. But logging out of technology and change is really not an option.
Restaurants are a high-churn business to begin with but perhaps it has become even more challenging with cloud kitchens, gig economy, the trend of eating-in instead of dining-out, data and machine learning etc, this range of new proclivities. However, jo jita wo sikander. The restaurant that is a joy to have a conversation in, or the one that has the cool cat chef, the dhaba that serves amazing chicken on the highway, the bar with the best cocktails, the luckily located teashop… Customers of course are definitive winners in these food delivery wars, whether they want quinoa with kale salad or homely dal chawal, whenever, wherever.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.