IRCTC plans to expand online catering on trains
Rail travelers may soon be spoiled for choice when looking to satisfy the taste buds on their journey, with the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) working to build a large-scale delivery network to enable the delivery of fresh food from restaurants to passengers at his / her seat.
Although the company currently offers catering services online, these are available at limited train stations and restaurants due to logistics issues. “It has been found that some of the brand players are reluctant to deliver meals to stations for various reasons such as logistical issues, train traffic, locating passengers in the coach, etc.,” said a manager of the company. The Hindu.
The manager added that the concept of a delivery aggregator was to support these brand players in managing the delivery from their point of sale to passengers on trains. These aggregators will collect the meals, which are reserved on the IRCTC’s electronic catering platform, from the designated restaurants and deliver them to the passenger in their place.
“This will allow us to have more restaurants on board and to extend services to more stations. We aim to make the service available at around 400-450 main stations, ”the official said.
Since the resumption of online catering in February 2021, the average number of meals booked per day has increased from 17,379 meals in August 2020 to 20,000 meals in August 2021. Currently, online catering is available in more than 200 stations .
The company is also in talks with players such as Zomato and Swiggy for these services, however discussions have not been “very encouraging” so far due to issues including the high fees charged by these players. The IRCTC is also addressing other service providers and is also studying the possibility of bringing its own brand that can act as an aggregator.
“The IRCTC is also looking at whether we can employ people for the delivery service… we need to see how the payments will work, and other legal aspects related to contracts, EPF, etc. Discussions are underway to see if this is a feasible option, ”said another official familiar with developments. The manager added that the goal was to ensure that the service does not become expensive for the customer.
The manager also pointed out that the delivery of food for the railways was very different as it was not a static segment. “Logistics is very important in electronic catering to be done on the railways. We have to be certain before any reconciliation… otherwise we will invite a lot of complaints and there will be dissatisfaction among customers, ”said the manager.