Online deliveries to takeaways – what food delivery industry will look like post COVID-19

The foodservice and delivery industry are putting their best foot forward to start operations after a gap of three months.

It is significant to state that almost no event in recent history has managed to generate so much uproar and indecision as the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s social and financial bearing on humanity has been colossal, and the effects are anticipated to remain for a long time.

As the country slowly and steadily materialises from the lockdown to embrace what many of us refer to as the ‘new normal’, the foodservice and delivery industry, which encompasses the cloud kitchens or delivery-only kitchens in India, are putting their best foot forward to start operations after a gap of three months. 

Throughout the lockdown phase, online food and grocery deliveries managed to become the sole lifeline that modern-day customers have come to depend and rely on. Even after reaching the fifth phase of the nationwide lockdown, many still have a preference towards ordering food online to avert stepping outside for dining altogether.

The escalating demand for online food delivery has facilitated the birth of delivery-only restaurants, also termed as virtual restaurants. This concept is currently fast gaining popularity in the F&B space in India.

As per Goldstein Research, the universal cloud kitchen market was valued at $700 million in 2018, and is currently anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 17.25 percent by 2030.

The F&B market, which was volatile in the few months after the lockdown, is now taking steps to embrace the concept of satellite kitchens since it is considered to be a prudent way of running the restaurant business. 

These delivery-only restaurants do not have any dining space, and depend only on online orders placed through food apps, which are the next big thing. Diners, who in the pre-COVID phase would prefer dining out, are now scaling up on takeaways and online food delivery as food safety and hygiene has become the key factor.

The four crucial elements that are going to define the future of the Indian food business once the pandemic vanishes are the products, the people who handle them, the production and manufacturing infrastructure and facility, and the essential protection measures while transporting the products from the production facility into the hands of the end-customers.

In the wake of this situation, many restaurants and food aggregators are implementing several safety strategies. To double up the safety standards and to gain back customer trust, food delivery joints are making use of double-layered packaging, one-time-use utensils and cutlery, ensuring delivery persons are equipped with gloves and masks, and above all, cashless payments.

Owing to these measures, the cloud kitchen segment is seeing the least impact of the pandemic. With a strategic increase in the ticket-size, it is a clear indication that foodservice and delivery are slated to be a long-standing trend in the coming years.

In order to mitigate the risks and to make virtual food delivery during the pandemic a hassle-free experience, cloud kitchens are also taking other essential steps to curb the spread of the virus. These include:

Following an effective outreach

The food delivery platforms have started an operative outreach programme, reassuring their customers about the safety involved in ordering food online.

These programmes have been designed to inform customers about the optimum practices that are being followed in order to enable them to order food without being wary.

Temperature tracker

The health status of the delivery partner has become one of the major concerns for customers while ordering food.

To address this, food delivery apps are making use of a temperature tracker on their app in order to inform customers about the body temperatures of all the stakeholders - right from the cook to the delivery boy.

No-contact delivery services

In order to maintain social distancing and to avert contact with the delivery person, many platforms are offering their customers with services like no-contact delivery options while ordering food.

The feature ensures that you do not come in contact with the delivery partner in any way. Customers can choose from any of the digital payment methods for contactless deliveries.

PPE kits to delivery agents

Since the delivery workers are particularly vulnerable to the virus, delivery agents are being provided with safety equipment like gloves and masks.

Sanitising kitchens

Customers are majorly concerned about the hygiene condition of places where the food is made and packed. Food delivery apps are taking measures to dehumidify and sanitise all the surfaces, thus preventing the growth of the virus. 

There is going to be massive growth in the ecommerce segment, which will witness activities like fundraising, and mergers and acquisitions in the coming quarters. This is because in order to emerge out of the pandemic victoriously, the existing players will consider expanding their portfolios.

New partnerships and associations will be seen, and new companies may spring up, thus escalating the ecommerce penetration. In the current situation, dining out will be less in the coming months or even after the restaurants open totally. More emphasis is bound to be on home deliveries.

However, it is a fact that almost no business can be conducted as per the pre-COVID era, but it is also vital to note that our country will be the fastest to bounce back with the new rules of customer engagement being drawn by restaurants.

Edited by Megha Reddy

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)