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Zomato takes Infinity Dining off the table



NEW DELHI: Food delivery and search platform Zomato suspended the contentious Infinity Dining programme from its app amid a battle with restaurants over what they said was “deep and unsustainable” discounting.

A Zomato spokesperson confirmed the move. “We received a range of feedback about Infinity Dining, and have paused it as we incorporate the feedback,” she said in an email. Infinity Dining was launched just over two months ago in three cities with 300-plus restaurants, she said.

Based on an “all-you-can-eat” model, the programme was the biggest bone of contention between the Gurgaon-based Zomato and restaurants.

‘Huge Victory’

It allowed Zomato Gold subscribers to order unlimited food and drinks for a set price from the menu of partner restaurants for a limited period of time. Restaurants said this squeezed their profit margins.

“Zomato’s attempt to sell the Infinity feature in the Gold programme was the final straw. We are not at all surprised that it shut down — it had to,” said National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) president Rahul Singh. “On one hand, NRAI is advocating the conservation of water and other resources, and on the other hand we get an ill-conceived product which promotes wastage.”

Restaurants across the country had launched a “logout” campaign on August 15 against food aggregators, including Zomato, alleging “deep discounting, lack of transparency, data masking and abuse of dominant position by online delivery aggregators”.

While the restaurant association and other aggregators including Dineout, Easydiner, Magicpin and Nearbuy have resolved contentious issues, the faceoff with Zomato continues. It has since delayed extending the Gold membership to online delivery, with restaurant companies rejecting its fresh proposal outright. Zomato is estimated to be delivering close to one million daily orders across 500 cities.

“Infinity was the tipping point of the logout campaign. It is a huge victory for restaurant companies that it has been withdrawn,” said NRAI Mumbai chapter head and executive director of deGustibus Hospitality Anurag Katriar. DeGustibus operates restaurant brands such as Indigo, Tote on the Turf and Neem.

Zomato had positioned the Infinity programme as a “first for India, under which diners could try as many dishes as they wanted at a fixed rate per person”. The Zomato spokesperson said that Infinity Dining is in the alpha stage and being tested continuously. “The focus of Infinity was to enable more of these opportunities for restaurants. Group dining is a valuable large-table opportunity,” she said.

Under the logout campaign, about 2,000 restaurants belonging to NRAI and other associations had delisted from the Zomato Gold programme. The Zomato spokesperson, however, said that of the 6,500-plus restaurants that were members of Zomato Gold in India, 10% had left but many had rejoined.

Restaurant companies belonging to NRAI told ET they will not rejoin Zomato unless it makes changes to the Gold dine-in programme. While Zomato has said it will rework Gold to drive better profit margins for restaurant partners and offered multiple steps to improve the programme, restaurant companies said key issues haven’t yet been addressed. “NRAI has deliberated upon eight critical issues pertaining to the online delivery space with two key aggregators Swiggy and Zomato,” Katriar said. “

Both of them agreed to discuss issues of deep discounting, high and uneven commission charges, data masking and mandatory bundling of services which are crippling the restaurant industry. There is an in-principle agreement to resolve these issues within a specific timeline. We are tentatively scheduled to reconvene in the second week of September to update the reformation progress.”

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