IRCTC cooks plans for second automated kitchen, in Chennai

Come December, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) will be serving fresh meals to offices around Chennai’s IT corridor from its automated kitchen. Next year, such kitchens are expected to open in Kolkata, Mumbai and Bangalore.

The Chennai kitchen will be modelled on IRCTC’s first automated central kitchen concept in Noida, from where it serves freshly-made food to companies and educational institutions.

The Noida central kitchen, which began trial operations in February, now serves nine firms, including HCL, Lava Mobile, real-estate player Supertech, Samsung, and the Aditya Birla Group. The number of meals served per client varies from 100-600, with Samsung as its largest corporate client with 600 meals on order.


The price per meal varies from Rs 50-70. For BPOs and educational institutions looking to source breakfast, lunch and dinner, the cost per day comes to about Rs 150-170 a day.

One reason for this price level is because IRCTC does not pack the meals as it has clients in the 3-4 km radius. The cooked meals are transported in temperature-controlled vehicles. “The moment we increase the transportation distance, the time and cost to preserve the food will shoot up,” Sudhir Warrier, Joint General Manager, IRCTC, said.

As a stop gap arrangement, it is also serving meals on the Ahmedabad-Rajdhani Express and snacks to some Rajdhani trains.

However, moving food from the Noida site to trains is not particularly profitable because the price is fixed by the Railways, and does not always go up according to input costs. Moreover, with the New Delhi Railway Station some 25 km away, the cost of transporting and preserving food is also high.


The Noida facility’s capacity is 10,000 meals a day, and can go up to 25,000 in the second phase. It now functions at a 35-40 per cent capacity.

Set up with a capital investment of Rs 5.5 crore, the central kitchen has machines that can cut 400 kg of vegetables an hour, and machines that churn out 1,000 chapatis an hour.

These machines have been procured from Finland (Hackman kettles and Brat pans), Italy (Rissoto spiral mixers and ovens) and France (Rosinox Brat pan).

“There is huge demand for fresh food at reasonable price from clients such as public sector units, MNCs, BPOs and educational institutes. According to a preliminary survey, there are 250 such places in Noida,” said Warrier.

The Noida kitchen employs about 125-135 people, of which 80 per cent are outsourced from catering management institutes. On a stand-alone basis, this kitchen is expected to become operationally profitable this year, he said.

After Indian Railways shifted out IRCTC from managing contracts for supplying food in trains, the catering agency has increased its focus on non-Railway customers.

Broadly, it operates on two models — one is the kitchen and the other, where it sets up cooking units in colleges and offices such as CBI, Indian Institute of Public Administration and the Corporate Affairs Ministry.

Published in: on October 17, 2012 at 5:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

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