2015 and 2016 were hard for food tech startups, but the ones that survived are not only thriving, but also coming up with new features to improve their offerings.
Swiggy has launched Swiggy Scheduled, through which users can pre-order their food on its platform. Users will be able to order their food up to 2 days in advance through Swiggy Scheduled, and will able to get deliveries within 30 minute slots. Swiggy will not levy an additional charge for the service, and users will be able to cancel their orders any time before they become live.
“At Swiggy, we are constantly looking for new and powerful ways to serve our consumers’ every food need. Sometimes convenience means being able to plan ahead, especially when order delivery time is crucial,” said Swiggy’s VP for Products Anuj Rathi. The feature is currently live in Hyderabad and Chennai, and will be rolled out in other cities by March.
The feature seems so rudimentary that it’s surprising that no food delivery app hasn’t come up with it yet. There are certainly times when you know exactly when you’ll need food, but you’d rather not whip out the app 45 mins before you want it to be delivered. The feature can come in handy for parties — instead of breaking away and tapping on an app while a party is in full swing, hosts can schedule an order in advance. It can also be nice to schedule an order midway through work for it to be delivered when you reach home.
But on the back end, it can be pretty involved to run such a feature — an food delivery company would need to know which restaurants are open for accepting hours at any time of the day, and which ones are able to reliably deliver orders at those times. But with food aggregators having now been running in India for the last few years, they have access of plenty of data, and can build on their core offerings to start providing more sophisticated features to their customers.
And it’s not only through Swiggy Scheduled that companies have been helping their customers get a better food delivery experience. Zomato’s cloud kitchens, which have now been adopted by other players as well, are tailor-made for the food delivery format — the kitchens are shared between several restaurants, and located in low-rent areas. The savings from shared kitchens and low rents are then passed onto the customers, who don’t care if the food that they’ve ordered has been cooked in a cloud kitchen or a full service restaurant. Zomato also has been running loyalty programs, such as Zomato Treats, that are exclusively for food ordering customers.
Customers have clearly been responding to these initiatives, and investors seem to have noticed. Zomato raised Rs. 1300 crore from Alibaba earlier this year, and Swiggy ended up raising Rs. 650 crore a week later. Last year, Foodpanda had been acquired by Ola, who’d committed to investing another Rs. 1300 crore into the company. After a torrid couple of years, food tech is hot again, and like Swiggy Scheduled shows, that means even more options for the discerning food ordering customer.