There’s more to a meal…
With taglines like “Every meal matters”, and “Bhel delivered faster than bail”, online aggregators like Zomato and Swiggy zoomed into the food industry even before one could bait an eye or analyze the gargantuan portion that they would slice out of the hospitality industry at large. Once the industry woke up to the immense market that the aggregators were gnawing into, talks and discussions and heated debates ensued to distribute this profitable market. That aside, one cannot argue that these online aggregators are here to stay. As we brace for, perhaps, another lockdown and as the Covid 19 threateningly re-surges again with mutations, driving us back to the safety of our homes—opening the apps and ordering our comfort foods seems to be the best resort.
True, the online aggregators are heaven sent, especially during these trying times when the restaurants have to be closed to dine-in facilities. Not only for the weary customers, but also for the restaurants owners, this has been a respite. The online aggregators have been useful for restaurants with less back-end infrastructure to serve customers. The statistics received through these aggregators can also aid in tailoring their services to the demands of the customer, like the cuisines preferred or the average spend of a particular demographic. It also serves all the eateries, the established and the newbies, in the same platform—providing an equal space to be discovered by the customers. At the same time, the customers are often blamed for being fickle-minded as they sway for the attractive offers and discounts offered by the aggregators and the same restaurants might not enjoy their patronage for long.
Many have pointed out that the system of online aggregators is unsustainable, with the low margins of profit that the restaurants gain after shelling out for commissions, packaging and delivery charges. However, the present times calls for such aggregators to be ever ready to serve the customers. With hands tied and doors closed, the restaurants have heavily relied on the aggregators to float their business and hopefully, to tide these trying times.
Nevertheless, the space that the aggregators have occupied is miniscule compared to that of the hospitality industry. One cannot deny that food is not mere sustenance but an emotion. At an age when technology has offered the ease of ordering food with a click, we still run to the restaurants and hotels to be pampered with food. The rush to the restaurants when the first round of lockdown was eased, is a testament to the ever attractive force of the hospitality industry. We yearn for the clatter of plates and chatter of friends or even strangers. Be it to grab the burger with friends, or have a romantic candle-light dinner with your partner, or have an elegant dine-in or go for a business luncheon or even if you want to curl into that comfortable sofa in your favourite coffee-shop—the online aggregators with their aggressive promotions cannot bring that charm and magic into our homes. The aesthetics, ambience, comfort, elegance and beauty of the hospitality industry remain unmatched.