The new normals in a world where Covid-19 unfortunately is becoming a part of our life will bring about many changes in the way businesses will be conducted, and more importantly the way we live our life.
In a world post-lockdown where the rules of the game are set to change, or rather have already changed, the way forward for the entire F&B industry is also entering an unknown road.
In this story of Medianews4u’s new brand series, Back to Business, we speak to Ankit Mehrotra, CEO & Co-Founder, Dineout
How are you coping with the impact of Covid-19 on Dineout? How effectively have you used the lockdown period?
This is unchartered territory for every brand in the world. Most industries across the globe are hit, and none more so than the Travel and Hospitality industry. The on-going nation-wide shutdown has severely hit our country’s F&B industry and local restaurants. Never before in history have restaurants completely shut down. Not even times of war. Our data clearly shows the drop in bookings and reservations during the initial days of the slowdown. We’ve seen a drop of 6% in the number of restaurants in the first week of March, another 20% in the subsequent week and it came to a standstill from April till mid of June.
Amidst this uncertainty and the on-going country-wide lockdown, local restaurants have taken a severe hit as they have either had to shut operations altogether or limit their services to takeaway and delivery options to prevent contamination. To help them navigate through this turmoil, we’ve built and launched the country’s most comprehensive contactless dining suite for restaurants and initiated an online petition to support NRAI on change.org requesting the Finance Ministry and Government of India to help restaurants with Employee unemployment pay cover to make sure workers do not have to worry about salaries in such testing times. Moratorium on upcoming statutory dues, delay in utility bill payments, holiday/temporary stoppage on EMI payments & interest.
The quest for a solution to a particular crisis helps invent new business opportunities and sometimes leads to a revision of existing business models … What sort of innovation has or will the Covid-19 pandemic bring to your brand/industry/category?
The coronavirus pandemic has forced companies across continents to adopt digital innovation and re-imagine digital alternatives to execute their daily operations. While the dining-out and restaurant industry is an enshrined experience-led market, as a leading restaurant-tech platform we’re heavily invested in modifying and improving restaurant-diner interactions to create an environment of convenience, trust and support. We’ve introduced the country’s first end to end contactless technology for restaurants in India.
We believe technology will play a significant role in this post-COVID-19 era to establish trust and build confidence in the minds of consumers, and help F&B industry adapt to the new normal. As everything from informing diners about the restaurant’s new safety measures, booking a table, pre-ordering dishes to minimise waiting time, seamless takeaway, contactless payments and ensuring superior hygiene standards are the need of the hour for the entire hospitality industry. This shift is necessary for restaurants to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and to get diners knocking on their doors again. We have also extended our contactless tech to malls and retail spaces to effectively manage their operations.
While some parts of the country have become Covid-19 free, some are still in a lockdown situation. How are you planning to resume business across cities that are not in the Red?
Dineout is helping restaurants across India to redesign their customer interaction by extending the use of contactless technology and adhering to the social distancing norms. Contactless technology will help restaurants to minimize customer touchpoints and build customer confidence for dine-in services. We’re started enabling takeaways and deliveries as a new revenue stream for restaurants to cope up with the new normal.
We believe that in a post COVID world contactless technologies will become the new norm, and people will use their phones to do everything, right from pre-ordering to making payments.
What will be your communication strategy post the opening of the lockdown? Understandably bringing customers back to you would be difficult… What will be the objective of the communication/marketing strategy?
Pandemic has certainly affected consumer behaviour as far as the F&B industry is concerned. Consumers will take some time to gain the confidence to go out again. Earning customer confidence is the prime importance for dining out business and we are making sure that all our partners on the Dineout App follow the safety and hygiene standards.
We have recently introduced the #SafeToEatOut campaign highlighting the safety and hygiene measures restaurants are talking across dine-in, home-delivery and take-away. To make sure the premier hygiene standards at restaurants we have partnered with Equinox labs for Food Safety & Hygiene Audit at partner restaurants. Dineout users would be able to see these ratings on their Dineout app and make an informed choice.
We are also promoting contactless multi-restaurant Takeaway & Food Delivery. Users can select their favorite dishes from multiple restaurants or pre-order contactless takeaways from certified restaurants for self-pick-up without any waiting time. This way they can relish their favorite dishes with complete peace of mind.
How did you keep the morale of the employees during this lockdown period? On a personal note, what kept you positive?
WFH is a great solution considering the current circumstances and to support the combat against the spread of the virus. It is important for us to safeguard the health of our employees and at the same time keep the business going seamlessly. The ability to stay connected, collaborate, and get the desired result while working remotely has become more critical than ever. We’re making sure regular employee engagement and team building activities in these stressful times. Conducting virtual office parties and meetups are part of regular office schedules.
What are some of the post-lockdown business strategies that you will use to bring the business back on track or at least get it in the right direction and also create demand for yourself?
Amid the on-going lockdown, many fine-dining restaurants and five-star properties in India are adopting the delivery model and revamping their menus for delivery with limited items. We believe ‘takeaway’ is going to emerge as a key revenue line along with home deliveries for most restaurants and food tech players would adjust to this new normal.
We have launched “takeaway” as a new category on the Dineout app for our partner restaurants and will help them build this as a new revenue line along with home deliveries. Additionally, we will be tagging them based on their hygiene audit scores done by a certified 3rd party agency to build incremental consumer confidence.
We expect the dining out market to recover soon as well, looking at the scenarios from the countries which have flattened the curve and are recovering. Dining out is more about the experience and diners can not have the same experience while ordering the food at home. We believe the role of tech in this post-COVID-19 era is to establish trust and build confidence in the minds of consumers, and our new inresto Contactless Dining Suite would help the F&B industry adjust to the new normal as everything from informing diners about the restaurant’s new safety measures, booking a table, pre-ordering dishes to minimise waiting time, seamless takeaway, contactless payments and ensuring superior hygiene standards are the need of the hour.
Restaurant businesses are being the fabric of society, will be one of the first industries to recover. With the easing of the lockdown, people would be open to dining out.