Food for thought as Apps bite into restaurant business

App-based food delivery has changed the business of eating out in many ways

Published - April 20, 2022 05:28 pm IST - TIRUCHI

Customers at a hotel in Srirangam in Tiruchi on Wednesday.

Customers at a hotel in Srirangam in Tiruchi on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: M. SRINATH

As eating out has become more common again with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, restaurants in the city are witnessing an increase in footfalls that translate directly into better business. However the exponential growth of App-based food delivery services during the lockdown has changed the experience of restaurant dining in many ways, say industry players.

“Earlier, people used to order one or two dishes for home delivery over the phone, but during the lockdown, basic meals have become a bestseller, especially on Apps. This has also helped us to diversify and adapt our menu accordingly,” R. Natarajan, F&B manager, Ramyas Hotels, told The Hindu.

The hotel group, which has three flagship restaurants, premiered its own App long before the pandemic, to promote its menu among a home-based clientele. “We had a separate team for the logistics and also tie-ups with local transport partners for home delivery. But the App really helped us during the lockdown when almost all the eateries were closed. We were able to keep our kitchens going through orders received on the App. The volume of orders on the App has gone down in recent weeks, but our dishes are always available on the other Apps as well,” said Mr. Natarajan.

For many restaurants, the summer season is a time for food festivals and special offers. This has been diluted somewhat in the past two years by the tendency of people to dial-in their food orders.

“Customers may not always receive the dish as it is shown in the photographs of the delivery App menus, which is why dining in is so important,” said S.P. Sethu Subbiah, partner, CakeBee.

Mr. Subbiah says the company has not been affected much by the food delivery App trend. “People still like to come out and try our new products and the day’s special in our restaurant. Being available online is important to us, but when we partner with App services, it affects our profit margins.”

Feenix, among Tiruchi’s earliest ‘online feeders’, delivers food up to a radius of 25 km of the city. Started by former delivery boys, J. Dominic Dhanabal and S. Johnson, in 2016, Feenix is facing a tough year as the bigger food delivery Apps have started spreading their wings too.

“Thanks to these Apps, people living in Samayapuram, for example, are having orders delivered from Tiruchi. In the long run, this will affect the business of local restaurants in remote locations. We are among the few local online platforms in the food delivery trade, and unlike our rival services, our customers can order from multiple eateries at the same time,” says Mr. Dominic.

“We have a set delivery fee and a designated time slot, so that we can manage with our team of eight. But I am not sure how delivery agents who rely on commission-based earnings will be able to make the long rides out of the city and back at today’s fuel prices.”

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