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From delivering food home to feeding the needy, the F&B industry has risen to the challenge in these tough times



While the country is under lockdown and the mood is grim, there’s food to the rescue, thanks to food aggregator apps like Swiggy and Zomato as well as standalone restaurants and star hotels that are working hard to bring a smile on the faces of their patrons by serving them good food at their doorstep. Whether you run out of food supplies or simply want to satisfy the urge of going out by bringing the restaurants home, it’s these services and the effort of all the people involved, specially the delivery executives, that have become a saviour for some.

Aggregator Apps

The big players that Zomato and Swiggy are, they haven’t left any stone unturned in staying connected with customers in a time of chaos and often distorted information. When we opened the Zomato app and selected the option to view the safety measures taken on the part of the aggregator app and restaurant partners, it showed a whole list of measures adopted, like checking the delivery executive’s body temperature, educating them about hygiene practices among others. “We are also sharing videos with our (delivery) partners and putting them on our partner app to allow easy access to information. The idea is to regularly distribute the right information so that our delivery partners can focus on their well-being while ensuring the safe handling of food. All Zomato delivery partners are covered by health and life insurance. We will support our delivery partners with financial assistance, on top of medical insurance in case they are diagnosed with Covid-19,” said a Zomato spokesperson.

Swiggy, on the other hand, told us that they have started sending out reminders and detailed videos to its delivery partners about maintaining hygiene, besides distributing masks to them. “In case of delivery partners developing any associated symptoms of the 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,” said a Swiggy spokesperson.

What’s common between the two apps is the option to select contactless food delivery and payment method, as well as the effort and efficiency, to run the show in the most difficult of times.

These aggregator apps are also doing their bit to support those in need. Zomato’s Feed the Daily Wager campaign is the aggregator app’s initiative where any individual can donate a certain amount of money, by selecting the options available, and the collected fund is used to feed the families of daily wage earners. It has also introduced a Gold Support Fund for it’s supporting restaurant housekeepers, cooks, servers and their families. All the proceeds collected from the Zomato Gold annual membership purchases in April will be used for this fund.

Swiggy, too, has come up with a number of initiatives and campaigns — from the Tip Your Delivery Executive feature where you can show your appreciation by paying a tip, to a Swiggy Hunger Savior Covid Relief Fund set up for the delivery partners and their families, and Hope, Not Hunger, in partnership with commercial kitchens, NGOs and state governments under which Swiggy has provided 2,50,000 meals already.

F&B brands

Standalone brands as well as five-star properties have now plunged deep into the delivery format. With a shortened version of their regular menu, one that is either curated or contains house specials only, brands like Chowman, Oudh 1590, Shiraz Golden Restaurant, Wow! Momo, 6 Ballygunge Place, Mainland China and Oh! Calcutta are delivering through the online aggregator apps as well as their own delivery system.

With an average of eight to 10 orders for lunch and 25 orders for dinner, brands from the house of Speciality Restaurants are operating from a single outlet — Mainland China on Gurusaday Road. “Home delivery is doing well. People who stay in and around the areas are also coming to pick up their orders.We are taking all precautions. It should anyway be a standard procedure for an F&B outlet. The kitchen staff, six or seven of them, are taking extra precaution. In this industry, handwashing is something that is anyway a must and an absolute necessity,” said Debashish Ghosh, general manager of Speciality Restaurants. With roughly 15 dishes, 6 Ballygunge Place, too, has started with their delivery format just like Oudh 1590 that only has its house specials on the menu. “Currently we are covering areas like south Calcutta, Salt Lake, Rajarhat and parts of north Calcutta and delivering the house specialities through our aggregators. We are also maintaining highly stringent policies pertaining to social distancing. The safety of our customers/patrons and our staff are our utmost priority. Our staff are abiding by a three-layer sanitation process while making the items and we have created a separate zone for our delivery staff from where they are collecting the food that will be delivered as per order,” said Shiladitya Chaudhury and Debaditya Chaudhury, partners, Oudh 1590 and Chowman.

Wow! Momo and Wow! China is “keeping the show on” by delivering from nearly 38 outlets in the city with the help of contactless delivery. “We are doing more deliveries than we do on normal days from some of the outlets. Over all, business is down by almost 1/10th but having said that, traction is pretty decent because there are people who depend on home delivered food. We are taking all safety measures like temperature is being taken, every employee is wearing a mask. Wow! China, I must say, is doing rather well,” said Sagar Daryani, founder, Wow! Momo and Wow! China.

Confectionery biggie Flurys initially reached out to housing complexes and since then they have been overwhelmed with the response. “The idea was to supply breads which falls under the essential category. We began supplying breads to several residential complexes. The numbers kept growing in time without any promotions and just by word of mouth,” said Rajesh Singh, director, Flurys, that has been delivering loaves of bread to nearly 20 large and midsize complexes like South City, Urbana, Uniworld City, Highland Park, Upohar, Avidipta, Rosedale, Silver Spring, Avishikta, Genexx Valley in Joka, as well as the smaller ones. These breads are also available on Swiggy and Zomato and at their outlets in Kalitala, Lake Market, New Alipore, Alipore and Bangur (between 8am and 11am).

The star hotels, too, are doing their bit. From JW Marriott Kolkata, Hyatt Regency Kolkata to The Park, a significant volume of delivery orders are ensuring that these brands are still catering to their patrons. “We have always been an F&B destination. The expectations are still very high from us to deliver great variety of food. We are trying our very best to deliver pizzas to chowmein, biryani to jalebi, momos to club kachori, samosas to chicken steaks and so on. Our endeavour is to provide tasty, high quality food at very competitive pricing. Our purpose is to uplift your mood at these depressing times,” said Pramode Bhandari, general manager of The Park.

One of the worst-hit industries in the current lockdown scenario is F&B

One of the worst-hit industries in the current lockdown scenario is F&B. The uncertainty of what the future holds for the restaurant business, the overhead costs and expenses borne in securing the staff, among other factors, have been similar to an impact caused by suddenly pulling the brakes of a speeding car. However, this hasn’t stopped the F&B fraternity from taking a step towards helping those in need.

Star hotels such as The Oberoi Grand and The Park have come forward to give back to society in this time of crisis. Following the requisite parameters, The Oberoi Grand is cooking and distributing food through the Missionaries of Charity since March 31. The total number of people being served the meals range between 70 and 80 each day. Known for being the late-night party hub, The Park, too, is facing its share of challenges. Despite being wary of supplies not coming in at all at some point of time, they are catering to nearly 200 people every day by providing them free meals. “Our chefs from The Park are preparing those extra meals each day that we are distributing to the people on the streets with the help of Calcutta police. The chefs have been provided with masks, sanitisers, disposable gloves for safety purpose and we are maintaining a standard procedure of regular health check-ups and temperature checks. The ingredients used are disinfected and fresh,” said Pramode Bhandari, the general manager of The Park.

The uncertainty of what the future holds for the restaurant business, the overhead costs and expenses borne in securing the staff, among other factors, have been similar to an impact caused by suddenly pulling the brakes of a speeding car

Standalones aren’t far behind. “Since the time we decided to temporarily shut Refinery 091, which was four to five days before the official lockdown announcement, we have been providing lunch to the underprivileged on a daily basis. Lunch served is either vegetable khichri or dal-chawal-aloo. Since we are from the F&B business this is the least we could do to help those in need now,” said Ramesh Agarwal, owner of Refinery 091 that feeds nearly 1,000 people on a daily basis and plans to continue doing the same until the lockdown is over. The iconic bakery Flurys has been selling breads in housing complexes and through some of their outlets and out of the 2,500-odd pounds of bread that are baked each day, 100 pounds are distributed to the underprivileged with the help of Calcutta police.

The Grid, which is “an active member of NRAI’s Calcutta chapter”, has been contributing to its Feed The Needy cause, apart from manufacturing hand sanitisers. “Our entire fraternity is contributing generously to this cause during the times of this crisis. NRAI aspires to cater to 10 million poor in one month and we are happily doing our bit. The Grid’s team has been actively absorbed into the parent company Chemtex Speciality Limited. The team is working overtime to cater to the huge demand for sanitisers and disinfectants that our society needs more than ever right now. Our first priority is to make these products available to the governmental organisations who are then passing it on to frontline workers and people most vulnerable,” said Gaurav Karnani, founder of The Grid.

The chefs have been provided with masks, sanitisers, disposable gloves for safety purpose and we are maintaining a standard procedure of regular health check-ups and temperature checks. The ingredients used are disinfected and fresh,” said Pramode Bhandari, the general manager of The Park.

Ambuja Neotia Hospitality that owns brands like Sonar Tori and Raajkutir, too, are lending their support to the underprivileged by associating with Calcutta police to distribute lunch boxes every day. “We have experienced a few natural disasters in the past but none like the current pandemic which has taught the world how to stand united by helping the ones in need. The initiative taken by Ambuja Neotia Hospitality among other things is to distribute 500 lunch boxes each in Calcutta, and Siliguri daily. This has helped in some way towards feeding souls in need with the hope to bring back a smile on their face,” said Nitin Kohli, whole time director, Ambuja Neotia Hospitality.

For Debayan Dutta of K Hospitality, one Facebook post, posted on March 17, led to the formation of what is today a 180-member strong group — Let’s Help. “It all started when I was going through all the news regarding Covid-19. At that time many countries stopped issuing visas and many states were planning to seal their borders. Being in the hospitality sector, I have friends and colleagues working in different parts of the world. So I put up a Facebook post stating that those who can’t come home due to this situation and have elderly parents at home, I can help them with providing basic necessities like groceries, sanitiser and medicines because I know how it feels when you have elderly parents at home as I have faced the same when I travel for official purposes keeping my elderly mother alone,” said Debayan, who works as a senior manager sales and business operations at K Hospitality that owns brands like The Irish House. Soon his post started getting shares and many came forward to join Debayan in his endeavour. Let’s Help started with a 20-member WhatsApp group on March 17 and now has members ranging between the age of 30 and 50 who cater to the elderly across the city. “Most of the people who need our help get in touch with us through our personal Facebook page. We take details from them and share the same in our WhatsApp group and the nearest volunteer helps with their requirements,” said the 33-year-old. One can get in touch with them directly by messaging Debayan on his social media handle, send an email or call him.

NRAI aspires to cater to 10 million poor in one month and we are happily doing our bit: The Grid

The largest momo chain in the country — Wow! Momo — with its delivery fleet #YellowArmy, consisting of 10 delivery executives, is also helping the elderly by providing essentials like medicines on request across the city. Sagar Daryani of Wow! Momo and Wow! China, as well as the head of the Calcutta chapter of NRAI, told us that apart from NRAI serving nearly 20,000 meals each day, his brand of momos and desi Chinese is distributing nearly 1,200 meals every day.

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