Get favourite restaurant fare at your rail coach

The train is nearing Hyderabad. It is lunch time and you can’t but help think of the tasty Paradise biriyani, especially when you face the prospect of the insipid fare the Railway contractor will serve up.

Cheer up, you can actually order food from that “great restaurant” you have heard about and be served on train, too. Thanks to start-up technology companies like New Delhi-based Travelkhana and Nashik-based Mera Food Choice (MFC), long-distance train travellers can order food from well-known restaurants in cities along the route.

Food is delivered in the coach. Of course, you pay only then.

Both Travelkhana and MFC have tied up with eateries across the country. Orders can be placed by dialling the call centre of the two companies or via their mobile/Internet apps.

Then, technology takes over: it validates the customer’s PNR (ticket) number and triangulates the train’s position by looking up the Railways’ train radar system.

The system then throws up the choice of food that can be made available at the nearest station.

Since it was established in December 2011, Travelkhana, which has contracts with caterers in over 80 cities, has already delivered food to over 23,000 travellers.

“We see ourselves as an online marketplace that brings together railway travellers and providers of catering services. Once the food is delivered, we reach out to customers for feedback,” said Pushpinder Singh, Chief Executive Officer, Travelkhana.

Of the 3,000 mail-express trains that run daily, only 434 have an attached pantry car. Pushpinder Singh says consumer forums are flooded with complaints about food quality on the trains.

Just four months old, MFC has tie-ups with 104 restaurants mainly in Central India. Says founder Piyush Kasliwal: “We select restaurants that have established brand equity in their cities. In order to ensure quality, our agents conduct surprise checks from time-to-time.’’

The vegetarian thali, a standard item on the MFC network, is priced between Rs 120 and Rs 140. But customers do not mind the pricing. What of treading-on-toes issues with the licensed vendors and the Railways own facilities?

“In many cases, our catering partners run high-end food plazas for IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) on railway premises.

In cities where the caterers operate independently, we have not faced much of a problem, yet,” says Pushpinder Singh.

Yet, Travelkhana has engaged lawyers for what Pushpinder Singh terms ‘contradictions’ in railway regulations.

Interestingly, one, of Raj vintage, says that passengers can request the ticket collector to order food from a restaurant outside the railway premises, quotes Pushpinder Singh.

MFC’s Kasliwal says he is not on a sticky wicket as long as supplies do not conflict with the interests of the Railway vendors (who generally provide cheaper meal options) contracted with the establishment.

Published in: on March 7, 2013 at 3:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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