Mumbai

No more queues for food

Mumbai: A visit to a food court in a UAE mall a few years ago changed the course of Sumeet Turakhia’s life. Mr. Turakhia, who was then pursuing his Master in Business Administration from an American business school, loved to hang out with his friends. At this particular outlet, soon after he ordered for a pizza, he was given an electronic token and told he would receive a notification once the food was ready. The concept stuck with him. This could be a good alternative to waiting endlessly for the food to arrive or being served cold food if he missed the call from the counter.

“I was amazed by the simplicity of the technology and asked the outlet manager about the product. I soon started researching it, but wasn’t easy as I was on a student budget,” he says.

Even while he was working with an Australian company between 2012 and 2013, he did not let the dream die, and was constantly on the lookout for manufacturers for a pager or buzzer in Singapore, China, and South Korea. But none of the companies he zeroed in on had dedicated dealers and distributors in India. “I just didn’t want to be a distributor or dealer but wanted to have a technology that could be customised for the Indian market,” he says. He found a South Koran company called Leetek, which agreed to manufacture the hardware with software support from him. And in April 2014, Tech Brewery came into being, with Mr. Turakhia pumping in Rs. 2 lakh from his savings.

The Products

TechBewery has four paging products that help both the customer and food service provider. Under the Queue Management system, the customer walks to the counter and places the order. He or she receives a pager or buzzer device with the order receipt. Once the food is ready, the device vibrates and beeps. This helps the outlets reduce queuing near their counters.

The Tablecall Paging System (TPS), on the other hand, is designed to improve the table turnover rate. His research showed that in India, customers rarely placed their entire order at one go, calling the waiter multiple times. “On an average, a group calls the waiter five times, and that results in 20-25 minutes of waiting; not generating any revenues at the table,” says Mr. Turakhia. The TPS is equipped with small wireless transmitters and have specific buttons for service, bill, water, etc. Each waiter is given a watch or pager with an LED display screen. Whenever the customer needs something, they press the button, and the waiter’s pager displays the table number, and the type of service required.

Apart from the table-waiter coordination, the other area was coordination between the waiter and kitchen. Traditionally, the waiter makes multiple trips to the kitchen to check if the order is ready. The Kitchen Paging System hopes to improve efficiency at restaurants. Here, a pager is with the waiter, and when the food is ready, the cook simply has to press a button on an LED display in the kitchen, sending an alert to the waiter.

TechBrewery also has a Geni Finder System (GFS) for semi self-service restaurants. The GFS hopes to do away with the cumbersome system whereby the waiter has to scan the restaurant to spot the customer with the particular order number. Instead, the waiter gives customers an electronic token while taking the order, which they need to place on the NFC tag (smart chips) on their table. As soon as they place their token on the NFC tag, it gets updated on the floor map screen and indicates where the customer is seated.

Customers, who on average spend up to Rs. 80,000 for any of the four devices, are happy with the time they save. Santosh Shetty, Director — Food & Beverage, Taj-GVK, says the Tablecall Paging System, which they use in their business centre and poolside, is easy to operate and ensures privacy to customers. “The best part is, it also helps us operate areas in the hotel with lean manpower deployment.” The simple plug-and-play operation do not need electrical fittings or dependence on the Internet. “Customers love it and so do our staff,” he says.

Apurva Narielwala, Manager at B Bhagat Tarachand at Viviana Mall, Thane is particularly happy with the queue management system, which they have been using for two years. “Earlier, we would see our customers waiting for their food near the counter. They were times when our chaat counter would be overrun by guests who wished to eat full-fledged meals, inconveniencing tjhose who wanted just chaat. However, now things have eased up for us as well as our guests.”

Selling the devices to prospective customers hasn’t been easy though. “Indians are technology-shy and resist change. So, to explain the product, we give free trials with zero obligation to buy. After a few days clients understand the value it adds to their operations, customer experience and efficiency,” says Mr. Turakhia.

He now aims to target semi self-service restaurants and big food chains like McDonalds and Cafe Coffee Day. “We would also like to increase our presence across India by appointing more dealers and distributors.”

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2020 8:24:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/no-more-queues-for-food/article19764619.ece

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