Food and food delivery firms in India jump to rescue restaurants battling Covid-19 blues as customers stay home

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Unsplash Photo by Animesh Bhargava

Large food and beverage and food-delivery companies in India are launching programmes to provide relief to restaurants and their staff facing a tough time as people stay home due to extended lockdowns and fears of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The lockdown, which has rocked the Indian economy, has been particularly harsh on the food and beverage industry. Many restaurants and hotels in dire straits have either trimmed their operations or completely shut shop, resulting in pushing millions of workers and local suppliers out of work.

As restaurants fight to survive, companies such as PepsiCo India, Swiggy and Diageo India among others have taken it upon themselves to support the industry through various relief programmes.

According to National Restaurant Association of India’s (NRAI), India Food Services Report 2019, the restaurant industry employed 7.3 million people in 2018-19, which was expected to rise in 2020.  However, that seems unlikely as the trudge back to recovery looks very distant, if at all, as people continue to stay home.

A Helping Hand

To alleviate the challenges faced by the workers of the restaurant community, beverage brand Pepsico India launched #PepsiSaveOurRestaurants, a fund-raising initiative in association with the NRAI and food delivery aggregator Swiggy to provide about 2.5 million meals to the workers of the restaurant community who are facing hard times.

As part of the initiative, when a consumer adds any packaged soft drink, ice tea etc to a meal order on Swiggy, Pepsi will contribute part of the beverage proceeds to the NRAI Covid-19 Relief Corpus.  

The restaurant industry is an integral part of the ecosystem that both Pepsico and Swiggy operate in.

“We found that mobilising a movement with consumers and  providing food security support to our restaurant workers and their families who are in distress is a timely intervention through #PepsiSaveOurRestaurants,” said a PepsiCo India spokesperson.

Over the last three months, there has been an upswing of lockdown-inspired contributions and assistance programs organised by companies.

Early June, for all its restaurant-partners to resume operations smoothly, Swiggy introduced its “Jumpstart package”, that would provide important elements such as safety kits required for implementing hygiene protocols, and business booster programmes to drive orders volumes at subsidised rates. So far over 40,000 restaurant partners have signed up for this package.

Swiggy has also set up a relief fund called ‘Swiggy Hunger Savior Covid Relief Fund’ for the safety and welfare of its delivery partners and their families. The corpus was generated primarily through contributions from Swiggy founders, senior leaders, employees and investors, as well as donations from customers and well-wishers.

Building a corpus

Of the targeted corpus of Rs 10 crores, Swiggy has already raised over 4 crore through initial contributions.  This includes Swiggy, CEO, Sriharsha Majety’s commitment of 50 percent of his annual salary towards the fund.

Zomato too, directed all revenues collected from its “Zomato Gold” subscriptions in April 2020 towards “Zomato Gold Support Fund” to aid restaurant housekeepers, cooks and servers in these uncertain times.

Meanwhile, Mondelez India launched Cadbury Dairy Milk Thank You bars, a limited-edition of Cadbury Dairy Milk in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata. It has committed part proceeds from the sale of these special chocolate bars, towards the healthcare of the daily wagers, via a partnership with NGO Nirmana.

Alcohol major Diageo India, maker of Johnnie Walker and Black Dog whiskeys, announced a ₹75 crore fund under its global “Raising the Bar” programme for restaurants and bars.

The two-year programme is designed to support the revival and recovery of qualifying bars, pubs and restaurants serving alcohol across New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and other cities.

Its top priorities include hygiene measures, digital support and practical equipment and training to transform how their outlets will work when they reopen.

“The fund is aimed to support restaurants and bars as they adjust to harsh realities of post-Covid pandemic business,” said Anand Kripalu, Diageo India’s managing director.

For a programme for bartenders Beam Suntory, maker of Jim Beam whisky among other products, has also pledged Rs 1 crore.

There is of course no denying that driving the underlying sentiment of we are all in it together is the need of the hour, which seems to be working well as an increasing number of companies join the cause-marketing relief trend by creating funds for businesses in need and alleviating employee hardships.

The bigger question, however, remains: How far can the collected funds travel given the food and restaurants industry are looking and losing 2 million jobs and closure of many more establishments given that customers aren’t going to step out of their homes for some more time.

Shampa Bahadur has been a business journalist for more than two decades. She has written for Business India, PTI Media TransAsia and India Infrastructure Publication Ltd among others. She has also written coffee table books. She can be reached at shampa@indoasiancommodities.in

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