The next time you travel by train from Amritsar to Kolkata or Chandigarh to Chennai, enjoy your hot meals from your favourite eating joints during your journey; and that too at a reasonable cost. Yes you read it right!
Many food portals have come up with services where passengers can order their food online and that would be delivered to them fresh and hot at designated stations on time.
They just need to enter their journey details ie the passenger name record (PNR) status and the system will automatically generate their travel route and help them in delivering packages at the mentioned seat.
Merafoodchoice.com, yatrachef.com, travelkhana.com are some of the online portals that are into this business and have made long journeys a blessing for travellers.
They deliver anything from Continental to Chinese; from Italian to Mughlai and even fast food.
Merafoodchoice.com has served more than 2 lakh passengers since its inception in November 2012.
Piyush Suresh Kasliwal, 31, chief executive officer (CEO) of the company and a software engineer professional, says, “I used to travel a lot.
Being Jain by faith, I am a hardcore vegetarian. Pantry boys would carry both vegetarian and non-veg meals together and I would hesitate to buy anything from them.
The idea struck me then and I started this venture to provide food of choice to passengers travelling by train.”
Another venture, yatrachef.com, which is a owned by Arun Rajan, CEO, Rameez Ashraf and Suchithra Sumadevi, was started in October 20, 2013, and covers 120 stations with tie-up with almost 200 restaurants.
Arun says, “We are different from our competitors, as we provide details of restaurants to passengers from where the food will be coming to their seat.”
Meanwhile, Pushpinder Singh, CEO, Travelkhana.com, says, “We have tie-ups with more than 450 restaurants and are covering 120 stations since 2012, when we started our venture.”
Covering more than 173 stations all over India and having tie-ups with almost 320 renowned food chains and restaurants across the country, these portal services with options of both online and cash on delivery (COD) payments, give customers the options to choose meals of their choice at reasonable rates.
Most of the portals charge just Rs 10 to Rs 20 extra on the MRP (maximum retail price) as per the restaurant menu. “It’s because we incur charges on platform tickets of our delivery boys.
We also have to maintain a multilingual call centre that helps the customers in choosing and placing an order,” says Kasliwal.
The customers who have availed these services, too, seem to be happy and satisfied. For them, these portals have come as a boon, as food during long journeys in trains was a cause of concern.
“The food provided by the pantry car is pathetic across the country and at platforms, it’s even worse,” said Abhishek Jha, 29, an IT professional working with Infosys.
“I travel a lot and these ventures are really big time saviors in long distance journeys. Earlier, carrying eatables was a headache. Now I travel freely, without bothering about the food,” he added.
Anand Sharma, 37, whose parents travel all over India on pilgrimages, too, was in praise for these services.
He said, “It’s convenient as now my parents don’t have to worry about vendors selling food.
Food served is hygienic and as per their choice. They provide food just like any other restaurant and at a reasonable price.”
Meanwhile, Rajni Jassal, 27, an assistant professor at the University School of Open Learning, Panjab University, who has availed this service said, “I keep travelling as I have to attend seminars and conferences. These portals are really helpful when it comes to ordering and getting food of your choice.”
However, people running these ventures have their own set of problems to face. They do come across passengers who create scenes on the payment of food.
“But it is mostly with the passengers who are unaware with how we work and whose meals have been booked by someone else, sometimes relatives.
They think the food is included in the ticket cost and is free. And then there are some cases when people might not have boarded the train at all. But such incidents are rare,” says an owner of a food portal.