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Food wars in Manipal?

The world is facing a pandemic which has resulted in a looming crisis in global and Indian economies. One of the most serious impacts of this is seen on the Food Industry. The use of food delivery apps to order food online has dropped from 13% to about 8% in a month since lockdown began. Indian restaurants are building a rival to food delivery apps like Swiggy and Zomato. They are looking to once again asserting their dominance in the sector.

According to Livemint, Manipal has the highest frequency of deliveries through food delivery apps in the country. However, restaurants in the city have opted for direct order policies since the lockdown began. A number of restaurants have also decided to cut their ties with these apps which have led to a drastic drop in online food orders. This is a growing concern for the delivery boys who work for Zomato and Swiggy in the small town of Manipal.

Delivering through a third party was agreeable when these apps introduced themselves to the restaurants with a very fair 10% commission, brilliant discounts and refunds for the customers. It was a win-win for all parties in the negotiation. Once everyone was on board the apps started ripping people off. Commissions increased to 26-33%. Even for the customers, there was a surge in delivery fee, taxes and pricing which was higher than that of the restaurants.

Restaurants which had delivery options are devoid of staff now. With a commission of about 33%, in most of the cases, the delivery partners earned more than the restaurants. The apps follow a policy of biased commission rates, big accounts and big brands are subjected to low commissions. A brand like McDonald’s is charged only 1% and so are many other restaurants who have good business.

The people who are in charge of deliveries or do the actual work get about Rs. 20 for each delivery. They have no idea about the underlying business. A number of restaurants and cafes in Manipal like Prana Café and Basil Café have decided to not be a part of this exploiting business. A number of other places are also against this system but are dependent and trapped in it.

After a number of attempts to protest which failed due to lack of unity, several restaurants during the pandemic have decided to start with their own delivery policies to become self-sustained once again and break free from the vicious loop.

In this scenario, the ones working for these apps are either losing their jobs or fear that they will. Uncertainty is at its peak for these workers who were satisfied with the bare minimum. Unemployment is not an option. To deal with this scenario, many restaurants are hiring personal delivery staff once again and some of them are on the lookout for other opportunities in the city.

“Restaurants are obviously one of the worst-hit sectors. In Manipal, it’s a slightly different scene. Since most students order food to be delivered, that is still happening. The rest who like dining in are still very keen to go out and eat, despite, the COVID 19 outbreak. Although, there is a small fraction who are very scared to even step out or order food from outside. So, if the students are back in town, business will be just as usual for most restaurants. The way I see it, the student crowd is not that bothered about catching the virus” was what Prana Café had to say.

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