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One direct order for eatery, giant leap for hospitality



With full focus on delivery right through the pandemic and an eye on muscling out aggregator apps, what did Mumbai’s restaurant owners taking lessons on direct ordering at a virtual boot camp come away with?

The pandemic has also managed to do a tonne of good. For the Indian F&B industry, it opened up a whole deliver-to-home economy that wasn’t half as robust pre-Covid-19. But with the good comes the bad. In this case, the challenger was the aggregator app keen to wallop a giant’s share of the profits, even while offering smaller eateries visibility and reach on their platform.

Right before the pandemic struck, the launch of a deep-discounting initiative called Zomato Gold led restaurant bodies across India to join the #LogOut campaign, encouraging eateries not to join schemes that were detrimental to the health of the industry and allowed aggregators to dominate. 

Divya Aggarwal, Head of Marketing, Impresario Handmade Restaurants and Dhruv Dewan, Thrive

The second year of the pandemic has seen the stalwarts take their mission seriously, launching what it has termed a boot camp. Mumbai restaurateur Gauri Devidayal’s words made the agenda clear: Taking back control all the way till fulfilment of last mile deliveries is the need of the hour.

Held from May 11 to 13 this year, the #orderdirect boot camps organised by the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) tutored participants on how to set up a direct communication line with customers through direct ordering platforms and digital marketing. mid-day joined the sessions, and here’s how it went.


The first session titled Enabling Direct Ordering with Thrive, was led by the platform’s co-founder Dhruv Dewan. Four years ago, Dewan started Hashtag Loyalty, a tech platform that offered Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools to restaurateurs. When the pandemic hit, 80 per cent of them stopped their subscription. By April, he came up with a direct ordering platform that could be activated on a restaurant’s existing WhatsApp and Instagram account as well as website.

The tech tool gives access to a dashboard that allows a restaurant owner to set up pre-orders, orders, a menu, apply promo codes and have access to digi payment gateways. When an order reflects on the dashboard, all one has to do is accept it, assign a prep time and opt for either a third party delivery option, or self-delivery. 

An aggregator app, he explained to participants, will offer the platform, discovery, payment gateway options and logistics, and charge you for it. “We don’t do discovery, our logistics is handled by five to seven players pan India; we are transparent about the costs involved and don’t charge the hefty fee per order,” he said. They have tied up with third-party vendors for payment like Razorpay, Google Pay, PayTM and PhonePe and delivery fleets like Dunzo and WeFast. “Our tools help you offer loyalty programmes to your customers as well as track purchase behaviour.” The company started in August 2020 with one customer, Bandra’s star Japanese izakaya Izumi. Today, they have 2,300 across 70 cities. “We have been able to save R1.84 crore for our clients,” Dewan claimed.

‘Order direct has helped tap into new customer base’

Ankit Gupta, Burma Burma 

In April 2020, Ankit Gupta of multicity vegetarian Burmese restaurant chain Burma Burma, set up his direct ordering platform on Thrive. “Without aggregator apps, we would not have survived. They have a seamless technology engine and the riders come on time and orders are completed well. The problem however, started when their commission of eight per cent went up to 21 and more,” said Gupta, who switched to Thrive last year. “The aggregator apps allow a delivery radius of seven kilometres. In the pandemic, I realised that from Fort, where we are based, I could easily make deliveries up to Lower Parel. Thus, going onto a direct ordering platform made sense. It helped me tap into a new client pool,” he shared, adding that he is hoping the new platforms clear the glitches. “They tie up with third-party delivery companies, and it’s often that I have to refund a client because the delivery didn’t reach them on time. But we are finding a way around this.”

‘I’m able to pass on the benefit to my customers’

Sankar Kasirajan, founder, IDlish

TWO years ago, Sankar Kasirajan opened IDlish, a south Indian fast-food joint, in Borivli, Malad and Goregaon. Three months ago, he got onto Thrive. “I took the order direct platform seriously only a month ago in the second wave and within 30 days, I have been able to redirect eight per cent of my orders to it,” he said. With no dine in or takeaways allowed during the ongoing state-wide lockdown, not everyone has their own fleet of delivery boys. And the aggregator ecosystem is not helping make profits. “It has empowered my business. I don’t have to give away 30 per cent on every order [to the aggregator] and I am able to pass on this benefit to my customers. It’s a way of offering them the lowest price guarantee.”


Anurag Gupta

Anurag Gupta, co-founder and COO of DotPe set up his firm in March 2020. Today, they have over 15,000 hospitality customers and have fulfilled over five million orders. “What is really working for our customers are pre-order and subscription options. Apart from deliveries, we also encourage curb-side or pick-up options in case customers want to pick up their orders from a convenient point. For restaurant clients that run more than one brand, we have a food court or a cloud kitchen delivery set up where they can cross-sell all their products through a single window. All this magic on one single dashboard.” 

Going digital, he thinks, helps you come closer to your customers via data. Their digital catalogue offers four types of menus depending on the requirement of a restaurant, as well as themes that can be customised and communication possibilities through banners and promotions. 

“One of our important features is a remarketing engine that helps repeat customers benefit, and thus, creates a stickiness for them to come back and reorder,” he explained.

‘Ordering tech platform was our solution’

Sid Marchant, Viren D’Silva and Sijo Mathew, Good Flippin’ Burgers

TWO years ago, Sid Marchant, Viren D’Silva and Sijo Mathew launched an outlet of Good Flippin’ Burgers in Khar, followed by Andheri and BKC. With a small menu, their aim was to create a burger brand that offered an international experience and was product focused. “From the beginning, we valued direct interactions with our customers. It helped us gain feedback and create a loyalty ecosystem,” said Marchant, adding that while they were on aggregator apps that offered discovery, they were simultaneously taking direct orders, too. “Nine months ago, we got onto DotPe. It was our solution to getting the system automated. It ironed out the tedious process of managing direct orders,” he added.


The last day of the boot camp was dedicated to digital marketing and led by an all-girls panel on digital marketing. The first session was held by Divya Aggarwal, Head of Marketing at Impresario Handmade Restaurants, which has the Social chain, Salt Water Café, and Smoke House Delhi in its gambit. Impresario set up its direct ordering platform on DotPe in April 2020. Emotional appeal and using direct communication to help gain life-long customers is important. To make that first impression, the first step is to get the menu sorted and use great quality images. “Pick out your best sellers and add them to your recommendation section. The written language goes a long way too, and online, SEO [search engine optimisation] and SEM [search engine optimisation marketing] is key. Remember, this is new messaging and it needs to be established in the customer’s mind. Content is contextual and it makes sense to leverage it with date wise, day wise tracking. Moving content like GIFs and videos does better,” she explained. 

The second session by Sunaina Basu, co-founder of Rafiki Marketing, laid the blueprint for creating a good marketing plan with performance marketing, a term used for online marketing where you pay only when a specific action occurs. “It allows you to target prospects with great precision, be it a click or a conversion. Performance marketing has proved to be extremely beneficial for customer acquisition and retention, enhanced reach amongst new audiences, giving you control over who sees what, and tracking the insights on your customers. The paid marketing universe includes Instagram, Facebook, Google Ads, YouTube and LinkedIn. “Start with a small amount, gain trust and grow your budget. Begin with two to three per cent of your revenue for ad spend,” Basu suggested, adding that restaurants should use YouTube and video ads on FB and Insta for awareness, Google ads for conversion, and Instagram for post promotion engagement.

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