The hotel and restaurant industry in India is hitting upon new business models to survive the downturn caused by Covid-19, and it could spell bad news for the likes of Swiggy and Zomato. The new solutions include direct order platforms, ordering through WhatsApp, dedicated apps and even a good ol’ dose of the famed dabbawalas.
In perhaps a continuation of their confrontation some time ago with the two giants in the third-party food aggregator space, Bengaluru’s Swiggy and Gurugram’s Zomato, the National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI), has started a campaign called #orderdirect. It held a series of online bootcamps to restaurateurs recently, explaining how digital tools and platforms can enhance their marketing and offer better service to their customers.
And it’s working. Quite a few restaurants, particularly in major cities, have partnered with companies like DotPe, Thrive and other options as an alternative to Swiggy and Zomato. While some leading hotels launched their own apps, it’s new technology solutions like DotPe that has excited restaurants. DotPe’s O2O tech platform eliminates the need for downloading an app, offering options to customers to order quickly by just scanning a QR code or via WhatsApp. Over 1,000 restaurants are now using it, including big chains like McDonald’s, Starbucks and Haldiram’s.
Explains Anurag Gupta, co-founder & COO of DotPe, “With the second wave of the pandemic, the restaurant owners are once again struggling to keep their businesses alive. This is why we want to encourage people to support the local restaurants and start ordering from them directly.”
Thrive is another digital alternative that has popped up. Its all-in-one suite helps restaurants reduce dependency on aggregators by helping them set up their own infrastructure. This ranges from digital menus to payment and fleet mobilisation, and customer data analytics. “The math for India’s $50 billion restaurant industry has changed due to the pandemic. It’s time restaurants took control of their own destiny,” argues Thrive founder Karan Chechani.
Even the famed dabbawalas of Mumbai have been roped in. Riyaaz Amlani, who runs 57 restaurants across 16 Indian cities, has tied up with the Mumbai Dabbawala Association to deliver food ordered directly from his restaurants in the megalopolis, like Social, Smoke House Deli and Salt Water Cafe. “This gives the dabbawalas a livelihood—the pandemic and work-from-home had demolished their businesses,” points out noted food critic Priya Pathiyan, “(It also) allows the restaurants to thrive instead of giving aggregators a huge cut.”
Pathiyan explains, “Restaurants have been struggling to survive in the pandemic. One of their big concerns was the fact that aggregators who are meant to pick up and deliver the food also control the customer data and decision-making process. Not only are restaurants having to pay huge commissions for these services, but they are also forced to offer debilitating discounts.”
This had led to confrontation between restaurants and food aggregators in the past, too, particularly in 2019 when NRAI launched a #logout campaign calling on restaurants to disengage from Zomato over its ‘Gold’ scheme. For long, most F&B outlets had no other option, but to acquiesce considering the stranglehold food aggregators had on the food delivery space. Perhaps no longer.