Is Food Delivery in Trains Going Off Track? A First-Hand Experience!
Train Food Delivery platforms are gaining more acceptance as people are opting for better quality of food and service.
Last year, CAG slams Indian Railways for its poor food quality. The railways did no harm to itself by putting IRCTC appointed supervisors to check the quality of the food delivered by in-train catering. Also, it opened up the option for “No Food” in premium trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duronto etc.
We have seen a rise in food delivery startups for trains. While there are incumbent players like Travelkhana, there is a surge of new entrants like RailRestro, ZoopIndia along with IRCTC’s own food delivery entity, Food on Track.
Passengers travelling on trains are increasingly adopting such platforms for better food and service quality.
I have been using such platforms whenever I am travelling on trains, and it was a seamless experience until the last occasion. And, this forced me to get inside their operational process and I discovered why the delivery platforms struggle to maintain a consistent service standard.
The First-Hand Experience
I was travelling on a premium train and this time, I tried the ‘No Meal’ option. I decided to opt for these delivery platforms due to its cost-effectiveness, variety and better quality of food.
But, this turned out to be a nightmare.
Since the train was delayed from its origin by 6 hours, I could not put my order from the TravelKhana app on the day of travel. Apparently, none of the delivery platforms was reflecting the change in schedule.
I had no other option but called their customer care to order my food and it was confirmed through a callback from a Travel Khana agent about 2 hours before the revised schedule. About few minutes before the train was supposed to leave for the journey, I called the TravelKhana customer care to check the status. Customer care reconfirmed the order.
Alas, the food never arrived.
TravelKhana never bothered to offer any apologies nor attempted to deliver the food at the next commercial station.
I slept that night on an empty stomach.
I only received this scripted email:
Mine was not a rare complaint. There are many such instances.
Queries sent to TravelKhana remain unanswered.
Who’s To Blame?
In spite of this fiasco, I would not blame TravelKhana, but their aggregation is the one responsible.
Such platforms lack the control of food quality and service delivery as all of them are engaged in facilitating the order. FSSAI needs to get into this food delivery ecosystem and put certain reforms in place.
RailRestro – The Challenger Opened Up
A candid conversation with Manish Chandra, Founder at RailRestro has helped me to have a better insight into the food delivery model.
He agreed on the outsourcing bit of the delivery and they have partnered with 530 restaurants across India. “In case, our restaurant partner misses a delivery, we offer an option to our customers to have it delivered to the next commercial station” added Chandra while giving us an insight into their service quality.
Today, RailRestro clocks about 2,000 retail orders and 100 bulk orders per day. The average ticket size is approximately Rs. 350/-.
On asking about the pricing model, Chandra has indicated four components that are included in the pricing
- 12% incentives for IRCTC
- Around 15% incentives for Delivery Platforms
- Meal price as decided by the restaurant
- Tax component – not only for food delivery, but also for the transaction happening between the delivery platform and IRCTC, and the platform and restaurants.
As changes in train schedules during winters are quite frequent, and the delivery platforms fail to keep pace with the revised schedule. Chandra offered an explanation. He said,
“We don’t have APIs yet to automate the changes. We are expecting this to happen in the next 2-3 months and there won’t be such problems once the API gets integrated with the existing platform.”
He believes, “There may be some teething problems, but food delivery platforms have already brought in enough options for the train travelers. The industry is beginning to flourish.”
“We have a long journey ahead” concluded Chandra