Before COVID-19 struck India, Rajesh Agrawal and his wife, Meenakshi, would often get food from restaurants delivered to their home. A weekly treat of chicken tikka masala or lamb biryani would be a break from the vegetarian dishes they cook at home. But not anymore.
It’s been nearly a year since the Agrawals stopped ordering in food from their favorite restaurants.
“There’s no way to tell how clean and hygienic the restaurant kitchens are really,” Mr. Agrawal says. “Sure, the government has released processes for restaurants during the pandemic. But we can’t be certain that they’re following those, can we?”
In most restaurants–dine-in or takeaway–kitchens remain out of sight and out of bounds for customers. Short of walking into one, there’s no definitive way to ascertain if a kitchen is following hygiene protocols.
The Agrawals are not alone in their caution. Many thousands of restaurants around the country forced to closed for much of last year during a series of lockdowns are now opened for business. Yet many people are staying away rather than take the risk of eating out or ordering in.
The result has been devasting for India’s USD 50 billion dining industry. It has lost an estimated USD 9 billion over the past year with restaurant footfalls dropping to zero for most of 2020.
Soumyadeep Barman, an innovator in the food delivery business, says the food experience is broken and needs to restore customer trust. He has come up with a technology-driven plan that is based on high standards and transparency.
Soumyadeep Barman, co-founder and chief product officer of Rebel Foods, plans to use technology to restore customer trust in food business. (Photo: Soumik Kar for Microsoft)
First of all, he has adopted an artificial intelligence (AI) video analysis solution by a Microsoft partner that constantly monitors kitchens for health and safety violations. And soon he hopes customers will be able to see for themselves how their meals are being
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