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TECHNOLOGY

How technology and food delivery apps will restore the food industry
Thursday, 28 January, 2021, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Siddhesh Valvekar
We are currently in the phase of recovering from the dreadful loss endured during the global pandemic and the hospitality and travel sector is witnessing signs of revival as developed nations are carrying out mass inoculations for their citizens. Several sectors that blissfully carried on with operations without a tech-integrated approach have had to embrace it for their survival while the world came to a standstill when Covid-19 spread rapidly across borders. 

The food industry has comparatively benefited by adopting digital transformation as something that was accelerated while being flooded with restrictions and mandated with safety guidelines. The food industry is a complex structure of several businesses and establishments that supply food to the world’s population. It covers agriculture, manufacturing, food processing, food marketing, wholesale and distribution, food retail, food regulation, education, research and development and financial services. While manufacturing units in most regions were temporarily affected by lockdown restrictions, Amul which is one of India’s largest food processing company observed a 50 per cent growth in household consumption. However, across various FCMG companies supply chains were disturbed which led to resorting to technology driven measures to satisfy the consumer market.

Digital Transformation Through Apps
At the beginning of the lockdown, the general public started hoarding essential food items in fear that they might run out of stock. Retailers struggled to keep up with the stock of raw edibles as well as consumer goods as the on-ground sales staff was missing in action. In these difficult times, mobile applications which are regularly referred to as “apps” saved the day. CavinKare that sells products like Chik, Nyle, Safoo, Cavin and many more worked out an app where retailers can directly place an order with the company’s distributers to ensure that the demand is met even if ground staff are not present. It might seem like a measure rolled out to tackle the situation at hand but has turned into a long-term strategy for companies to keep a closer look at the consumer needs. More than 75000 shopkeepers used this app to get the company’s products after its launch. 

Companies like Dabur India, Marico Ltd, Saffola followed similar approaches by enlisting on digital platforms or adhering to direct-to-consumers business models. This approach can prove essential in studying consumer behaviour in detail and the data can be analysed to plan distribution patterns and enhance supply chains which might prove very beneficial to food manufacturing companies. Companies with e-commerce presence tend to enjoy the perks of digital analytics tools to implement food marketing strategies to maximise growth. Apps and online platforms work as a base for consumer activity which is essential to digital marketing.

Technology driven solutions also double the chances of a product or service being purchased by a consumer by making it more accessible. Food delivery partners like Swiggy and Uber Eats have reported an increased number of partners ranging from small scale food eateries to high-end restaurants that have relied on them while being flooded with restrictions on dinning out. Digital transformation has become a must for restaurants in the post Covid-19 era which has led them to resort to contact-less approaches while continuing to provide diners with warm experiences. Almost every restaurant you walk into today will have a QR code enabling customers to access the digital menu where they can place the order directly from the table they are seated at through their mobile phones. Several restaurants have introduced their own apps to offer a personalised experience. 

According to a survey conducted by a market research company YouGov, 35 per cent of all users prefer to place their food orders directly on a restaurant’s mobile app. This approach helps restaurants build a stronger and deeper brand resonance image in the user’s mind which can help them garner loyal customers and potential recurring business.

Glimpse Into The Future 
When restrictions had begun to ease down there was one question that stared at outlet managers from across the deserted venues- How to maximise sales at half the operating capacity that they used to earlier? Therefore, several Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) joints like McDonald’s, KFC and Dominos had introduced features that encouraged users to opt for their Drive-in menus when food lovers were still quite hesitant to visit outlets. Companies have embraced this concept as a long-term fix to the changing food habits and designed prototypes of new venues that will offer services that will cater to the needs of the future. Burger King’s suspended kitchen design is structured with a suspended kitchen setup on top of the drive-thru lanes which makes it ideal for urban guests that prefer a quick takeaway and guests who prefer dine-in can access the seating situated above. 

One more design offered by the same company describes a setup with a drive-in area where customers can park, scan a QR code at the parking spot and place their orders through the Burger King app and have orders brought to their cars. The design also features a different lane for advance orders placed using the app where customers can notify the restaurant upon arrival. Similar designs have been instigated by McDonald’s, KFC and Taco Bell which aim at serving customers that are doubtful about dinning out in public.

 It’s not always the giant-sized and completely automated machine system that contributes to achieving efficiency in this industry. Sometimes, it is the small-scale tech-integrated software in your standard operating procedures that make the difference, just like Deliverect. Deliverect is a fast-growing tech start-up that directly connects a restaurant’s online delivery channels to the existing point of sale system thus saving the time for manual procedures. Automation is not essential because it substitutes the labour with a robotic counterpart but because the same manpower can be utilised in other areas which need addressal. 

Another technological advancement considered to be a third-generation concept was introduced a few years ago in the form of contact-less payments. Kirana stores have accommodated digital modes of payment by partnering with online platforms like Phone Pe, Google Pay and Amazon Pay to make it convenient for consumers to carry out cashless transactions. Digital payments have become increasingly handy for users when it comes to purchasing groceries or paying for food orders and for retailers as way to keep the business running hassle-free. Various advancements over the years have improved how we produce and find our food and evolving technology could play a very important role in dealing with unprecedented times like these.

(The author is former STEP Associate with Trident, Chennai. He can be reached at siddheshvalvekar21@gmail.com)
 
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