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Goyal and F&B sector players discuss steps to improve railway catering
Saturday, 14 April, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, New Delhi
Piyush Goyal, minister of railways and coal, Government of India, interacted with players in the food and beverage industry with the objectives of tackling the issues and problems faced by them and bringing on board important suggestions to improve the delivery of catering services on Indian Railways.     

The video conferencing session was attended by key F&B players, including Hindustan Unilever Limited, Café Coffee Day, Nestle, Travel Food Services, MoM, Bikanerwala, Taj SATS, R K Associates, Arenco Catering, Jubilant Food Services, Punjabi Ghasitaram Halwai (P) Ltd and CAFS, senior officials from the railway ministry and Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).

The following items were raised in the meeting with the key industrial players of the F&B industry:
    • The rates of a la carte and standard items served on mobile catering has not increased since 2012
    • The rates should be increased automatically with time by indexing them with wholesale price index (WPI)/consumer price index (CPI) market-driven prices, which should be given by the railways with periodical revision
    • A non-increase in the rates of food items over the years has impacted the quality of mobile catering services
    • There should be adequate arrangement of catering services on non–pantry trains
    • There should be improvement in pantry cars and their cleanliness issues
    • A system for the timely redressal of issues of failure of equipment on-board pantry cars and non-redressal should be established
    • Members have requested for limiting the entire a la carte menu and only bouquet of catering products to just 8-12 meals/items, and the same be permitted for sale. This will help in reducing overcharging and provide better quality of service
    • Members have suggested that all catering items should be priced in multiples of five, which will aid the passengers and reduce instances of overcharging. Unauthorised hawking should be eradicated on stations and in trains
    • The airline model (having less variety but superior quality) should be followed
    • Hot food vending machines must be introduced on platforms and trains
    • Ready-to-eat meals and e-catering should be proliferated
Goyal touched upon the following issues in a freewheeling discussion and dialogue with the players of F&B industry:
    • There was a great stress and emphasis by the minister of railways to warn and discourage the existing contractors of catering services from indulging in corrupt practices or in harassment of customers. He categorically stated that only approved items, with the stated quantity and prices as approved in the policy, should be served to the customers
    • Appreciating the demands raised by the licensees/contractors, Goyal issued instructions for comprehensive improvement and sprucing up the infrastructure/equipment of the pantry car and monitoring the same intensively with the use of mobile application
    • Licensees, the railways and IRCTC are important stakeholders in this endeavour to deliver catering services to bona fide passengers, and hence, they should sit together, and have a free and frank discourse, so as to sort out all the problems and gaps in catering service delivery currently faced by the Indian Railways
    • The terms and conditions of existing contracts should be studied threadbare and solutions related to issues of quality, infrastructure and revision of rates should be found out within that framework so as to move on a sustainable paradigm of catering services
    • The railways are at the forefront in its service to poor and middle class population and there should be absolutely no compromise on the quality of services rendered by catering contractors. In this context, the railways minister stressed that all the errant contractors who compromise of quality and indulge in corrupt practices should be shown the door and railway should frame an exit policy for the same
    • All the stakeholders in the delivery of catering services should endeavour in the reduction of catering complaints of the passengers and to bring about a wow experience
    • All the waiters/service delivery agents who are on the cutting edge should be counselled and warned against the practice of soliciting tips. If they are found guilty of the same, they will not only be deboarded, but also blacklisted and booked under the relevant provisions of the law
    • There was an underline focus to drive home the point that all the caterers/licensees should issue bills/proper receipts, and for this, point-of-sale (POS) machines should be proliferated in a big way for both mobile and static catering units over Indian Railways
    • In order to bring the catering services over the Indian railways in sync with the global best practices, ready-to-eat (RTE) meals should be proliferated over the Indian Railways in a big way, and the long list of number of items served on board trains should be rationalised and standardised
 
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