Friday night dinners, weekend brunches, post quiz outings, team treats and spontaneous adventures to satisfy cravings are a distant memory of the past.The recent COVID-19 pandemic has brought our country to a screeching halt. This has caused a tremendous impact on a number of industries, among which is the Indian restaurant industry, valued at $50 billion.
Although a number of restaurants in major metropolitan cities are accepting orders via food delivery apps like Zomato and Swiggy, restaurant revenues have taken a huge dip. As the owners struggle to pay employees, due to the lack of cash in flow, it not only affects the lives of people working there but also the lives of their family members. At the same time, let’s not forget the risk that people delivering food endure inorder to bring home the bacon.
All this has forced restaurateurs to make some unexpected decisions including putting the shutters permanently. Some are taking to social media to share recipes in an attempt to keep their brand name from collecting dust while others are conducting Zoom cooking classes.
Amid everything, Ola (Yes, Ola - the least used app on our phones, after Moodle) has made a rather interesting decision to expand its cloud kitchen. It wishes to go from 40 to 100 cloud kitchens this year alone. Prior to this, it has tried to diversify itself in the delivery sphere by introducing Ola Cafe in a few metropolitan cities and Ola Store, a hyperlocal grocery delivery service, both of which failed.
Maybe the third time's the charm for Ola. With people opting out of dine-in, Ola might actually stand a chance but not to forget its biggest competitor - the existing cloud kitchen giant Rebel Foods, with over 300 kitchens under its belt. It will indeed be very interesting to see how this pans out with Swiggy and Zomato struggling to reinvent themselves simultaneously.
The future of the restaurant industry post lockdown is a conundrum. It is highly unlikely that post lockdown people will want to go out like the good old days. Regardless, restaurants will have to practice social distancing effectively which would mean fewer tables and much more frequent sanitation.
Contactless dining could be the potential solution after lockdown. It would mean that customers will have to book the table well in advance, pre-order food via digital menus and make payment through apps such as PayTM and Dineout Pay. Promoting pristine hygienic conditions in restaurants, rather than the visually appealing food offered, on social media could be the next trend.But will contactless dining be commercially feasible? It certainly will not be a piece of cake. In this world full of uncertainty and chaos, let’s hold on to the priceless memories and do our part by staying home and maintaining distance.