The pandemic has hit businesses hard, and the Food and Beverage industry has been one of the hardest-hit businesses in the world. As of 2020, it's been reported that nearly 10% of the dine-out restaurants across the country have shut down, while 30% of the restaurants that weren't operating during the lockdown were likely not to reopen even after the pandemic ended.
With restaurants having to close indefinitely with lockdowns being imposed across the country for the first time in forever, we've seen a 100% decline in the number of dine-in customers. Even post the lockdown, social distancing and new dine-in policies (along with fears of overspreading the virus) have drastically reduced the number of dine-ins.
Quite recently, the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), which represents more than 500,000 restaurants around the country, has started the #OrderDirect campaign, which is encouraging restaurants to break free from their heavy dependence on food delivery aggregators and to move onto other platforms which charge lower commissions and don't impose as many strict controls over businesses.
The two most giant aggregators in this space, Zomato, and Swiggy have created powerful stacks of technology and logistics, which restaurants have to commit to using. In certain other countries, restaurants can list their apps for discovery but still do their fulfillment. However, that's not an option here, where they have to give everything up to the aggregator, from cataloging to completion. Even a core part of their business - their customer data - is being given up.
There's been a wave of resistance growing from restaurants due to the steep commissions and powerlessness over the aggregator's policies. Interestingly, this has been helped by direct order platforms that offer deliveries for a fraction of the commission. The hope is that even if it can't wholly let restaurants break away from the aggregators, it can at least cause them to re-evaluate their policies.
Due to the impact of the coronavirus on dine-in offering, restaurants have relied heavily on deliveries to stay afloat, and the duopoly that Swiggy and Zomato have over this service meant that restaurants majorly depended on them for orders. According to MarketWatch, the pandemic has more than doubled food-delivery apps' business.
The answers to these problems might have already started to be addressed even before the pandemic. Many restaurants had started evolving their services (for instance, the increasing number of cloud kitchens across the country) to meet the growing demand for takeout and home deliveries. Quite a large number of the newer generation order more often than not, preferring to eat their meals in the comfort of their own homes. Plus, with most of them too busy focusing on work, they'd like to get food delivered rather than cook. The only thing is, the pandemic has just sped up this process, and the need for a solution right now.
WhatsApp offers an effective solution to these problems with their Official Business Solution. Through chat automation, customers can browse through menus, place and pay for orders directly from WhatsApp. This has significant implications for both customers and restaurants:
Essentially, the only hurdle that companies will have initially is setting up WhatsApp and integrating with the payment gateways and delivery apps (if any), but that in itself is not as much of a challenge. Once the initial setup is done, it gives businesses complete control over their business, like cataloging, delivery radius, cancellation fees, delivery times, refund criteria, and most importantly, customer data, which helps restaurants effectively remarket to their customers.
While perhaps in the past, Zomato and Swiggy were compelling enough for delivery because dine-in customers were still a more significant source of revenue for restaurants, restaurants have had to adapt to the changes in the way customers have adapted to post-pandemic changes. WhatsApp has become a powerful tool for restaurants to take back control of their business effectively.