Talking to Restaurant India, Rajan reveals how they deliver food on the wheel and how they manage logistics on daily basis.
How did the business idea of delivering food on the wheel come to you?
The initial spark for YatraChef came out of a personal experience of mine being down with food poison due to the poor quality food that I had during a train journey in 2013. That was when I thought, why not have something like a “home delivery” service for the trains which would ensure quality food is delivered to the passenger and more importantly allowing the passenger to order and eat what they want from popular restaurants across the country as well as try out the local delicacies en-route.
Do you think that this is going to suit the Indian travellers as good percentage of travellers carry home cooked food while travelling?
As far as we have seen, only a small percentage carries food while they travel long distance in train. As food is a perishable item, carrying home-made food for long journeys is difficult. Based on the survey we conducted in metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore, we found that people prefer home-made food during journey because they fear about the quality of the food being served in train. They are sceptical about buying and having food due to the fear of food poisoning and other health issues.
What are the logistic challenges? How do you manage the delivery if a train is delayed on the particular delivery station?
There are lots of logistics challenges when our primary intent is to enable delivery of food on a moving entity like a train with a delivery window as small as 2 – 5 minutes.
Presently, delivery is being taken care of by our partner restaurants. We have developed a system which keeps track of the running status of the train in real time and updates the partner restaurants on the delay/running status of the train where the delivery is to be done.
You started your business from South and extended to North. What is your plan of taking it Pan India?
We started on 30th October, 2013 with only 50 stations from Kerala, Tamilnadu , Karnataka, Goa, Maharastra and Andra Pradesh. Within three months, owing to an extremely positive response from customers and clients alike, we expanded our operation to other states. Currently we are serving in 120+ stations all over India. We are now focusing on increasing the number of stations as well as increasing the number of restaurants at each station to give our customers a much wider palette to choose from.
What was the initial challenge in getting the restaurants on board because this was a total new concept to them?
Convincing the restaurants to join our service and make them agree for a revenue sharing model with us was a big challenge. We personally had to go around the country and meet the managers at each restaurant we had tied up with during our pilot run and had to convince them about the perks of joining with YatraChef. Once positive word of mouth publicity started flowing in and once people started to know about us, it became much easier with more and more restaurants voluntarily expressing their interest to join our network.
How many restaurants and cities do you cater today?
As of now, we are serving at 120 plus stations all over India and we have association with 200 plus restaurants for regular orders and 100 plus restaurants for bulk/group orders.
How is the packaging done to keep the food fresh and hygienic?
Packaging is done by client restaurants. Thalis are packed in specially made packaging custom. Other foods are neatly packed in casserole or plastic containers as per the standards set by each of the restaurants with extra focus given on maintaining the freshness and hygiene of the food.
What is the USP you are offering, considering that there are other platforms like Travelkhana, Merafoodchoice exercising similar services?
YatraChef’s primary USP lies in the fact that unlike our competitors, we follow a proper market place model. All restaurants and food vendors partnered with us are listed and mentioned clearly in our site unlike others who hide the names of the restaurants or use ‘made up’ names instead. This makes us transparent and that reflects on our pricing too. We have the lowest listed pricing among similar services who have listed the same restaurants as clients.
Where can we see YatraChef in two years from now?
In next two years YatraChef will be looking at starting service in all the major stations across India. We will be looking in to bring the maximum number of restaurants at each station to provide a wider palette of food that travellers can choose from. We also plan to have a greater control over the supply chain and will be keenly looking to push our own logistics at key locations. Plans will also be put in place to start our own food chain to cater to the travellers.