Life has been tough post the outbreak of the pandemic and most people are still struggling to get back on track. In some places, the lockdown has been eased, so people are breathing easy. But in some places, the alarming number of cases is keeping people on guard.
The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the economy too. Many industries and businesses are shut and waiting for the green signal to start operations. Restaurants still have their shutters down for dine-in customers, but they have their delivery operations in place and are taking utmost care as far as food hygiene and safety is concerned.
However, restaurant owners are looking forward to the day when they can have walk-in customers. This will require innovation and redesign, and following other kinds of safety protocols.
We talk to a few food chains to know how they are planning their reopening strategy and what kind of assurance they will be providing to their customers.
Going by the current scenario, people will be choosy about dining outside. “Though social distancing has become the norm, we anticipate consumers to evolve from this off-premise approach to seeking a safe dining experience with some sort of a human connection once restaurants start reopening,” says Moksh Chopra, CMO, KFC India.
He believes that consumers are likely to seek solace in ‘safe’ human interactions, especially after the prolonged periods of lockdown and lack of socialising. Which means that restaurants will be looking at ways to adopt contactless dining. “We are already looking at changes in our restaurant design and processes to enable this,” adds Chopra.
The brand is already considering modifications to restaurant design to reinforce social distancing, training the team members according to latest safety norms, implementing measures like distanced seating arrangements, demarcated waiting spots in queues at the counters, controlled customer inflow etc.
“All this in addition to our 4 X Safety Promise of Screening, Social Distancing, Sanitisation and Contactless across platforms meeting necessary WHO and Health Ministry guidelines,” Chopra informs.
The CMO is certain that digital/ online ordering and payment is going to increase in times ahead. “We are already operating contactless digital ordering for a cashless and easy experience and this experience has been extended to food service channels with Contactless Delivery and Contactless Takeaway options that we launched recently,” he adds.
Contactless Takeaway is a hassle-free pick-up service to your car or bike — a first-of-its-kind service in India, with the food being delivered to your vehicle near the restaurant. Customers can place a prepaid order on the KFC app, website or Msite for services and collect their order in an easy and completely contactless manner.
“Through these services our aim is to offer safe and easy access to those consumers who are already on the road for essential journeys or on their way home from difficult work shifts,” Chopra explains.
Even the food packaging is secured with a tamper-proof seal to ensure that nobody has touched or accessed the food from the time it was packed until delivered. As quality is key at KFC, the food is prepared with utmost care and is it cooked at a high temperature of 170 degrees C.
With the new normal setting in and lockdown restrictions being eased gradually, restaurant brands have been working diligently on creating and testing new ways of operations designed for the post COVID-19 world,” says Mandeep Singh Sethi, Vice-President — Operations, Burman Hospitality Pvt Ltd (Taco Bell’s Master Franchise Partner in India).
Being a global brand, Taco Bell is adhering to a stringent set of protocols in terms of health and safety. To reinforce this, they have been constantly gaining knowledge from what other Taco Bell franchisees have been adopting globally and have already started introducing a number of features that will make them one of the safest restaurants in India.
“Some examples are re-organising restaurant layouts, creating an end-to-end contactless dining experience for our consumers, as well as introducing new business models which have a greater focus on delivery and takeaway,” explains Sethi.
He positively says that they will re-open their restaurants with additional hygiene and safety measures. “Social distancing will be followed both on the restaurant floors, as well as in the kitchens; temperature checks will be enforced for everyone entering our restaurants, whether it is our own team members or our customers; wherever possible, delivery orders will be fulfilled without needing riders to enter the restaurant; seating arrangements will be altered to respect social distancing, ensuring adequate distance between people even when at the same table; all employees will be wearing gloves and masks at all times; contactless payments will be encouraged and all restaurant surfaces will be sanitised at regular intervals,” says Sethi.
Customer and team member safety is paramount and the brand is ready to bear all expenses.
They have already adopted several measures with respect to food delivery such as ensuring every rider sanitises their hands before picking up food parcels as well as ‘double packing’ all orders where each item is wrapped in individual packets followed by an outer bag to ensure contactless transit of the order.
“For added peace of mind, we are also enclosing safety cards with each order, documenting the name and temperature of the delivery rider,” adds Sethi.
Additionally, consumer engagement has always been at the core of Taco Bell. “We will continue to apprise our customers of all the safety and hygiene measures that we are taking through multiple platforms – including our website and social media. We have a responsibility to our customers to offer the best, safest and most rewarding experience, and we will ensure we do this,” Sethi says.
LIVE STREAMING CUSTOMER ORDERS
The COVID crisis has put a lot of focus on how food is made, served and handled in restaurants keeping hygiene in mind. However, we often still wonder if the way our food is cooked is hygienic or not, whether the food handler is taking safety precautions while cooking our favourite meal and so on.
To help customers eliminate constant worry, Instapizza, a chain based in New Delhi, has taken an extraordinary measure. They launched #CrustFlix, where customers can live stream what’s cooking in the kitchen all day and everyday.
Ashwin Jain, founder of Instapizza, says that due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, people have become extra cautious about hygiene and cleanliness of food.
Build to gain customers’ trust, #CrustFlix, enables people to see every single step the brand is taking to make sure their teams, kitchens, and food are all 100 per cent safe.
The brand conducts hourly temperature checks for all staff and delivery executives at all operational outlets. The whole staff has been provided with fully protected kitchen wear, and wash and sanitise their hands every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. The kitchen is sanitised every 2 hours, and ovens are kept at 265 degrees C. All of this can be seen live by tuning in to #CrustFlix (www.instapizza.in/crustflix).
Jain points out that being in the food business, hygiene has always been a top priority since the inception of the brand. “Our employees have always worn a clean uniform while in the kitchen and now thy are also wearing masks. We are ensuring that all safety guidelines are being followed and met,” he says.
All the delivery executives have been provided with face shield, face mask, gloves and Instapizza cap to ensure that they are entirely contained. Instapizza’s all pizza deliveries come with a sanitiser wipe so that you don’t have to look for your own.
Talking about the initiative, he says that when people order food from a restaurant they want a sense of comfort. “We provide them this comfort, which is transparent and honest, and when they are convinced that their food has come to them in a safe manner, they’ll enjoy and relish the food more,” says Jain.
The founder mentions that the live streaming is helping both the customers as well as those employed across the chains since they are aware that they are being watched. Their cleanliness regime and routine have become punctual and accurate on all days. “The deep cleaning of kitchens, washing hands etc happen after an exact interval of time and the employees are super happy about it,” he adds.
Talking about the current atmosphere, Jain says that earlier customers were skeptical about ordering food online. However, in the past few days, restaurants have experienced a steady hike in people ordering food again. Obviously, it isn’t the way it used to be and it is too early to predict anything, but there is some hope.
(In the first of its Reopening Strategy series, Sakal Times explores how food chains are charting out in detail their comeback programme once they receive the green signal from the authorities. Other businesses too are working on their revival strategy. Right now, there is no definite date when things will go back to normal but we have to gradually overcome this challenge. In the coming days, ST will bring more such stories.)