Beating Hunger in COVID-19

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While much has been said about accessibility of food during the tough COVID-19 days, Bengaluru’s restaurants are jumping on the delivery bandwagon to reach out to their customers.

If there has been an event that has turned everyone’s life upside down across the world it is the pandemic COVID-19 or the Corona virus that has impacted everyone in some way or the other. Among the worst affected are restaurants who have had to shut doors to clients but one thing that has kept a few of them afloat is food delivery. Apart from takeaways that are still limited, it is food delivery platforms like Swiggy and Zomato that are coming to the rescue of these restaurants.

Swiggy
Swiggy

Partnering Cues

To ensure that Swiggy’s delivery partners stay safe at this time, the company regularly sends out reminders on best practices of respiratory hygiene, proper method and frequency of washing hands, as well as identification of associated symptoms. A series of videos capturing pertinent details shot in multiple languages is being circulated as a ready reckoner. Customers who are unwell can opt for no-contact delivery by updating the Swiggy app, or by calling their Delivery Partner and asking for their order to be dropped off at their gate or door. Deepinder Goyal, Founder & CEO, Zomato has said that ensuring delivery of safe, hygienic food to customers is paramount. “To ensure this, we have launched contactless delivery. Customers can opt to allow the delivery partner to leave the package outside their home, ensuring no human-to-human interaction and hence lowering risk of any transmission. For safety reasons, to avoid contact between our users and delivery partners, we’ve temporarily disabled the CoD (cash-on-delivery) option on our app.” John Tang, Co-founder & Director Lalamove a logistic provider who has started assisting with food based deliveries during the lockdown adds, “on an average we serve around 72 clients who operate in the Food and Beverage industry and deliver their goods to the native Bangaloreans through our two-wheeler delivery. On an average we garner around 300 every day orders from these clients. The key brands which we are serving currently are CakeZone, Bajo foods, Licious and Cake Shop.”

Cuppa Go
Cuppa Go

Helping the Hands that Help

Apart from providing free N95 masks to all delivery partners in the affected cities, Swiggy has introduced a new tipping feature on the Swiggy App so customers can show their appreciation and support to the hunger saviours during these testing times. “In case delivery partners develop any symptoms of Coronavirus, we have urged them to alert us immediately and consult a medical professional. We are providing them with free on-call medical consultation through our partners. In case a Delivery Partner or their family members (spouse and children) contracts the virus, all medical expenses will be taken care of through the medical insurance provided by Swiggy,” says Swiggy. For Restaurant Partners, Swiggy has shared a detailed advisory to guide them on best practices to maintain hygiene and sanitization in their kitchens. These include hand washing regimes, mandatory temperature checks, use of 3-ply face masks for all staff and self-quarantine measures in case of any illness. “We are also insisting that our partners pack all orders in separate bags to avoid direct contact with anyone during transit and provide for a hand-sanitizing facility to delivery partners at the order pick-up point. To enable better cash flows for restaurant partners during this challenging phase, Swiggy is increasing the frequency of their payouts. Although some restaurants have decided to shut down their dine-in facilities temporarily to encourage social distancing, many of them will continue to service delivery orders. We are also enabling thousands of new restaurants on the platform who were not available for online delivery earlier,” says Swiggy. Both Zomato and Swiggy are making a big push for strict hygiene standards at restaurants and restaurants can issue a self-declaration on whether they are complying with best practices advised by WHO at their premises.

Star Turn

While delivery is not typically associated with five-star restaurants, the unprecedented lockdown has even seen them take the delivery route. “Primarily we have decided to take the delivery route now as it is very difficult for the guests to come and dine at a particular restaurant. Through delivery, the guests can get their favourite meals without visiting the restaurant and curb the cravings. Getting the best of our delicacies to our esteemed guests is always the best way to strengthen our relationship with them. This will also help us to contribute to the society at this crucial time,” avers Abhishek Mishra, Director of Food & Beverage Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway. Mir Zafar Ali Executive Chef, The Leela Palace Bangalore adds, “this is the best way to reach out to our guests. People are mostly depended on online services these days, as it is easy to handle and very user friendly. We had thought of going live with Swiggy and Zomato sometime back, and here we are at the right time. Our guests have been also telling us that they miss our food, and hence we have online delivery to the rescue. Apart from online delivery like Swiggy and Zomato, we have takeaway also available. Guests can order and pick up food by themselves.”

Logistic Issues

A key issue that has ensured that the staff who cooks is able to travel to the workplace, the Government has issued passes for the associates so that they can travel to work without any hassles. “We have made arrangements for some of our staff members inside the hotel in order to provide services 24*7 to our resident guests,” adds Mishra. At The Leela, a few senior chefs are staying in the hotel itself to monitor daily operations. Visakh Viswambharan, Director – Cuppa Beverages Pvt. Ltd., avers, “to ensure the safety of our staff, we have arranged all the necessary accommodation facilities at our café itself. Most of our staff are boarding at the café and are not stepping out, except for critical tasks. The ones who wanted to take leave and stay at home have been given the required permission. This was done early on in consultation with all staff members, and it helped us assess and optimise resources to keep our home-delivery services running smoothly.”

Health Matters

The hotels are following all the preventive measures and guidelines by WHO; from screening the body temperature at the time of the entrance, providing masks, gloves and hand sanitizers to cleaning of the areas at regular intervals. “Handwash sinks are replenished with soap, hot water, sanitizer and face masks. Hand swabs of food handlers are taken daily and randomly to ensure kitchen staff washes hands regularly at work. Supervisors ensures physical distancing at work and PPE’s,” says Ali. Restaurants are taking precautionary measures to assure staff safety. “We have temperature checks on a day-to-day basis for our staff and delivery executives. We are strictly following guidelines where our staff are being given regular training on hygiene practices and are instructed to wear masks and gloves throughout the day. Similarly, we are creating awareness about these practices by reaching out to our valued customers through various social media platforms. We have showcased our staff’s preparedness and safety measures on our social platforms, as well,” adds Viswambharan.

Swiggy staff being thermally screened
Swiggy staff being thermally screened

Supplier Cues

As far as supplies are concerned hotels are banking on their regular vendors who are helping to procure essential items that are required. “Once the supplies are received it is sanitized at the receiving area itself before entering the hotel store and kitchen. As we have made a compact menu with our signature dishes from all the restaurants and therefore the supplies required are limited and thereby helping us to maintain our quality and standard,” says Ali. There is currently no restriction on groceries and meat supply, which falls under the ‘essentials’ category. However, many restaurants are facing a shortage of packaging materials.

Business Impact

Volume of business has been drastically affected at this point of time and restaurants and hotels do expect a 50-60% drop in revenue as compared to last year for next two quarters.  Food industry has been deeply affected by the current global crisis. “Since our grab and go outlets, Cuppa Go is based on the format of easy takeaways and is placed on the high streets with a good footfall; we are not operational on that front as of now. Whereas at Cuppa Redefined, we just have 30% of business happening compared to before and that is also through online deliveries apps, Swiggy and Zomato,” says Viswambharan. Some other hotels are innovating and trying to diversify as well. Little Italy, the Italian restaurant has on offer DIY Pasta Kits which can be ordered through Swiggy or from all their outlets in the city. Each kit has 3.5 portions of pasta as per Little Italy servings and contains 500 grams of pasta, sauces for two portions, recipe for third portion, sachets of chilli flakes and Oregano. “We got the idea since the lockdown because people are confined to their homes and food is something they need every day for sure three meals of healthy nutritious food, with limited restaurant options and doubts over hygiene and safety more people are cooking at home and we wanted to give them the possibility to cook food similar to what they find in restaurants at home. We are also shooting cooking tutorials to go with it,” says Amrut Mehta, Director, Little Italy Group of restaurants. While the lockdown has meant a slowdown for the industry, there is still much to cheer about the industry, and it needs a change of perspective to understand the same.

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