‘Neo normal’ Indians shun Covid fears as food orders surge

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BY NISHANT ARORA
New Delhi, Sep 27 (IANS)
If you are among those who are thrilled to once again see food delivery boys all around, or plan to visit a restaurant and does not get reservation or have to fight for one — as Covid-19 caseloads surge by nearly one lakh a day in India — mind you that this situation does not add up.
Why are people risking lives to satisfy their palate as India readies to become the top country with infected cases very soon (it crossed 60 lakh cases on Sunday), surpassing the US?
Is there an explanation to why the online food delivery market has recovered to (and even grown beyond) pre-Covid levels in a number of large pockets in the country?
The answer is simple: To a large population, the coronavirus fear is now over, as they scramble to start living their weekend lives the way they used to be in the pre-Covid era.
Plus, top fine-dining restaurants and five-star hotels — from Marriott International to Grand Hyatt — are now taking orders for gourmet food with curated menus and innovative packaging via online delivery platforms like Swiggy and Zomato, delivering themselves from kitchen to your home.
Delhi and Mumbai are nearing full recovery (95 per cent of pre-Covid) while metros such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Chennai are a tad behind the curve (nearly 80 per cent of pre-Covid), according to a new Zomato report.
“Some cities such as Kolkata, Patna, Jamshedpur, Ranchi, and Siliguri have recovered completely and have exceeded pre-Covid levels,” said Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal.
In Delhi-NCR, affluent residential areas like DLF Phase 1 and 5 have recovered to 1.5 times of pre-Covid levels.
In South Delhi, average order value rose by 65 per cent between February and September 2020. Food delivery business in South Delhi is back to 110 per cent of pre-Covid levels.
Connaught Place bounced back to pre-Covid levels and some micro-localities within Central Delhi are at two times of pre-Covid levels, Zomato said last week.
According to Prabhu Ram, Head- Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CMR, the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to a rapid shift in consumer behaviour, and giving rise to an all-new eneo normal’ consumer.
“After months of being socially isolated and with an urge to break free, consumers are slowly pivoting from being overly-cautious to experimenting with online food delivery,” Ram told IANS.
“With more gourmet cuisine now available for home order from premium restaurants and five-star hotels, consumers now have an irresistible palette of choices,” he added.
According to Zomato, the ongoing IPL-13 season and the subsequent festival season will help rest of the metros and smaller cities to make a full recovery soon and resume growing over pre-Covid levels.
“With more premium restaurants, — restaurants where a meal for two may cost Rs 1,500 and above, now opening up to online delivery — a larger number of affluent consumers are embracing online ordering,” Goyal informed.
Overall spends on such premium restaurants have grown by over 25 per cent over pre-Covid levels.
As customers spend more time with their families, group ordering has become more relevant than ever.
Witnessing the trend, Swiggy recently launched Health Hub, a dedicated healthy food discovery destination on its main app.
With heightened health consciousness, increasing awareness around eating right, and a growing demand for food among urban Indians, Swiggy worked with nutritionists and top restaurants in the country to enable curation of special health menus and dishes by restaurants.
Consumers have the ability to choose from gluten-free, high-protein, low-carb, organic, vegan, and keto meals across soups, salads, wraps and desserts.
“There is a visible demand for healthy food choices by consumers and restaurants are seeking opportunities to innovate and stay relevant to these market changes,” said Vivek Sunder, COO, Swiggy.
“With the launch of Health Hub, we expect this trend of ordering healthy dishes to grow and more than double over the next 6 months”.
The food delivery marketing around being “contactless” has also appealed to the Indian consumers.
“This shift in consumer behaviour is equally matched by an outreach from online food delivery platforms, vouching for safety, hygiene and all precautionary measures, including contactless deliveries,” Ram said.
(Nishant Arora can be reached at nishant.a@ians.in)

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