Eating out changed from being fuel for the family to the centre of our activities outside home a few decades ago. Along with disposable or surplus incomes, came this concept that to enjoy was to eat, and do some shopping at the same time. Not shopping for essentials, but shopping for stuff that just tended to accumulate or get used up, without really adding much value.
Or maybe you threw in a movie. Often on impulse. In an over-priced seat and with hugely marked up beverages. And with garish toilets to add to the thrill.
During the COVID, a lot of that has changed, especially the way we shop and eat. Let’s talk about food this time around.
Restaurants in big cities in India, with or without bars, are often said to be all about location. Especially in the suburbs and the expensive parts of town. As different from inner cities and smaller towns, where it is more about the quality of food, rather than the location. (This is, though, changing.)
To set up or to even continue running a restaurant in a good location costs a lot of money. If you rent, it costs a lot. If you inherited, then it’s opportunity lost in rentals. All this, and more, makes a difference to the quality of food served.
What, more often than not, emerges on your plate, served by a bored waiter who has no idea of what it was all about because all he did was pick up a plate from a counter in exchange for a Kitchen Order Ticket, as a collection of components of food supplied as a combination of lowest bids. This is especially true with non-veg food outlets, where the joys of compulsory halal are added to the mix, often unrecognisable.
Order food for delivery online has changed all that, and even more so in the last 4 months, and how.
First of all, the food is usually cooked in a low-cost back-end somewhere, and despatched from there too. Much cleaner, much safer and often much, much cheaper.
Next, you can call the chef directly on the phone if need be, and ask him or her to indulge your specific requirements. Without going through the dumb waiter.
Third, and most important in this day and age, you can directly ask for the name of the cook and the others involved in preparing your food, and then make your decision.
This last part, as many of us are learning, is very important. Good quality restaurants with a reputation to maintain, often going back generations, would mostly not just operate open kitchens but also let guests get a full view of the cooks. This is a bit like going to a shop and asking for a particular brand of, say, tea or coffee. The choice, as the consumer, should be yours.
Likewise with food ordered for home delivery. The choice of re-confirming the names of the persons getting your food ready are yours too. Exercise them, ask for a photo if possible.
After all, that is your right, right?
So what happens to all those waiters and servers? Where do they go? Has anyone else observed a huge shortage of qualified and competent service people in the plumbing trade, for example, not just in India, but globally, that’s one option. Waiting tables is the bottom end of the skillsets barrel.
Online providers come and go like mushrooms after rains. Please be careful about how much financial information you share with them. Some of the older ones I find reliable but shall not evangelise names and brands).
Veeresh Malik was a seafarer. And a lot more besides. A decade in facial biometrics, which took him into the world of finance, gaming, preventive defence and money laundering before the subliminal mind management technology blew his brains out. His romance with the media endures since 1994, duly responded by Outlook, among others.
A survivor of two brain-strokes, triggered by a ship explosion in the 70s, Veeresh moved beyond fear decades ago.