Many restaurant executives told ET they won’t be able to offer fresh food within 10 minutes even as Goyal clarified on his Twitter handle that the initiative that he announced late on Monday will be for “popular and standardised items only” in nearby locations.
“It seems challenging in spite of having a very limited menu in the finishing stations (where Zomato plans to keep 25-30 top-selling items in a given locality) and robotics,” said Rohit Aggarwal, director at Lite Bite Foods that runs chains such as Punjab Grill, Street Foods of India, Tres, YouMee and Zambar. “We feel customers should be served fresh food; we don’t think customers are in such a tearing rush,” he said.
Some restaurateurs that ET spoke with said the model may not be sustainable.
“Unlike groceries, dry goods and medicines, fresh food cooking has its own nuances,” said Rahul Singh, founder of Beer Cafe. “I hope the FSSAI (food industry regulator) ups their ante in ensuring dark kitchens (or kitchens which only deliver) retain their quality. Also, aggregators neither own the kitchens nor the riders, and commission is what drives them and their lofty valuations,” he added.
All food safety standards are under the purview of FSSAI, or Food and Safety Standards Authority of India.
Anjan Chatterjee, chairman of Speciality Restaurants that operates Mainland China and Oh! Calcutta chains, said: “If this happens and takes off, it will be the first such delivery model. And while Zomato being such a large company would have thought this through, our average cooking time is about 15-20 minutes and we will not be able to reduce that, since consumers order from us for the freshness of food we offer.”
Amid massive scepticism expressed on social media about freshness of food and safety of delivery fleet, Goyal, in a series of detailed tweets, said this first-of-its-kind move in the food delivery space will be made possible in “deep collaboration” with restaurants.
He clarified that quality, hygiene and delivery partner safety will not be compromised; the company will not penalise delivery agents for late deliveries; and that the plan will be as safe for delivery agents as the existing 30-minute delivery plan that has been the standard industry norm so far.
Goyal said the new service, Zomato Instant will be launched in Gurgaon next month with four finishing stations. Each station will have 25-30 bestseller items from partner restaurants based on “predictability”.
It could not be confirmed which restaurants would be collaborating with the listed food aggregator on the ultra-fast delivery time.
Responding to queries from social media users, Goyal tweeted that items such as “bread omelette, poha, coffee, chai, biryani and momos” could be delivered within 10 minutes. He also claimed that the 10-minute model will lead to lower prices of the items because of hyperlocal availability, and that it would not impact either delivery partners or restaurant margins.
Some grocery delivery companies such as Blinkit, in which Zomato had announced an investment of $150 million last week, have been offering 10-minute delivery.
Last week, Zomato had also announced an investment of $5 million in robotics company Mukunda Foods that designs and manufactures smart robotic equipment to automate food preparation for restaurants. The food aggregator has also invested in adtech firm Adonmo and B2B software platform UrbanPiper Technology recently as part of its overall $1-billion investment allocation for startups.
In one of his tweets, Goyal said he “started feeling that the 30-minute average delivery time by Zomato is too slow, and will soon have to become obsolete”.
“If we don’t make it obsolete, someone else will,” he added.
Large players such as Domino’s Pizza, have thrived on a ‘30-minute or free’ delivery positioning for years.
Social media users have also drawn attention to road safety since the move could lead to rash driving of delivery fleet, and called on state governments to regulate delivery timings.