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As Restaurants Look To Shut Doors For Coronavirus, Food Delivery Startups In A Fix

As Restaurants Look To Shut Doors For Coronavirus, Food Delivery Startups In A Fix

NRAI had adviced restaurants to close all restaurants for dine-in purposes

The shutdown advisory is voluntary and not mandatory for restaurants to follow

Are online food delivery platforms ready to deal with the hike in online orders?

“I wake up on the fifth day of my isolation, and my first thought is the thing I would like most in the world is to have breakfast in my favourite bar. Immediately, I remember that I cannot,” said Luciana Grosso, a journalist in Italy on the quarantine situation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The situation is going to get something similar in India with the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) asking its member restaurants to shut down all dine-in operations from today (March 18) due to coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in India.

“We have taken a decision of advising members to close all restaurants starting tomorrow across India because we are endangering a lot of employees. We will never be able to survive the guilt if a fatality occurs at our end,” the restaurant association president Anurag Katriar said.

NRAI, which has more than 5 Lakh members, confirmed that the several city-specific chapters have reached a consensus over the shutdown advisory. However, the decision to shut down their business temporarily is voluntary and not mandatory, Katriar highlighted. Even then, it is said to impact thousands of restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes across the country till March 31.

Will Higher Food Delivery Demand Force Zomato, Swiggy To Stay Open?

With dining out of the picture, the focus will turn to deliveries. Food delivery is more than a service these days, it’s a habit. Therefore, the biggest players in the Indian food delivery sector — Zomato and Swiggy — have been optimising their services to ensure the safety for the customers and the delivery partners.

For instance, both Zomato and Swiggy introduced a “contactless” food delivery. Besides this, the duo has been educating and pushing for hygienic and best practices among the food handlers. Though many experts have raised concerns about the spread of the infection through kitchens as well.

But the question is with dining out all but out of the equation, will the likes of Dineout, Zomato and other discovery and deals platforms also pare down operations? In fact with fewer choices for dining out, deliveries could rise, which would put Swiggy and Zomato in a fix of balancing the demand with the needs of the hour i.e self-isolation for delivery partners.

Some restaurant chains like First Fiddle, which operates Lord of the Drinks and Warehouse Cafe, have decided to shut down their outlets from Tuesday midnight. Meanwhile, The Wine Company and Lite Bite Foods, which runs Punjab Grill, Zambar and Asia 7, will be closing down their services by tomorrow. “We can’t deny the fact that restaurants are places where social distancing can’t be practised. These are times when we need to think about our staff and patrons more than our business. We will be back with a bang once the virus goes,” Priyank Sukhija, managing director of First Fiddle, said.

Zomato and Swiggy, which together fulfil more than 2.6 Mn orders on an average every day, were not quick to respond to the coronavirus pandemic in the early weeks. Neither company had issued any instruction with regards to the safety and hygiene, until March 03 2020, when the number of cases had already started growing.

However, with food delivery demand expected to pick up, would it be safe to leave thousands of delivery agents out on the street at a time when everyone is being advised to go into self-isolation. It poses a great conundrum for Zomato, Swiggy and other delivery startups, one among several challenges thrown by the coronavirus pandemic.

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