Pooja Patel
In the face of the deadly second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the food and beverage sector has faced massive losses as the restaurants are closed, for the second time in two years, and only deliveries are allowed. The revenues have dropped drastically. A similar fate has been that of Mumbai’s dabbawala community too. Mumbai’s dabbawalas have been out of jobs due to the closure of the offices and restriction on train travel.
Symbiotic relationship
Impresario Handmade Restaurants, the group that has several restaurants like SOCIAL, antiSOCIAL, Smoke House Deli, Goodness to Go, Salt Water Café, FLEA Bazaar Café, and Ishaara have partnered with Mumbai’s dabbawalas to brave the storm together. Both these entities have now come together to form a symbiotic partnership to support each other for the next few months.
In a first-of-its-kind pilot project, Impresario Handmade Restaurants has employed several dabbawalas who will service direct delivery orders received on Impresario’s tech-enabled platforms for brands like SOCIAL, Smoke House Deli and Salt Water Cafe.
Orders from these restaurants in the Lower Parel, Bandra (West) and BKC neighbourhoods will be fulfilled by the dabbawalas starting this week. The association will roll out in phases over the next few months, employing more dabbawalas and further strengthening the partnership.
Innovative solutions
“When the first lockdown hit, it was the toughest time we’ve ever faced. Our members were left with little to no money in their bank accounts. Although there are many restaurants and hotel chains in our city, we’ve only catered to office-goers at their workplace in the past. Now that work from home has become the norm, it’s important to go where the customer is,” said Ulhas Muke, President of Nutan Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Charity Trust. This trust is part of the Mumbai Dabbawala Association.
Riyaaz Amlani, CEO & MD, Impresario Handmade Restaurants said, “Ordering directly from restaurants (and not through aggregators) empowers us to have direct and deeper relationships with our customers, and saves on prohibitive commissions being paid out to them. We are then able to pass these savings on to our customers and allow them to benefit from ordering directly.”
Amlani added that now, ordering directly is also helping his company provide employment to the dabbawalas, who have lost their livelihoods due to the pandemic. Everyone needs to support each other through these trying times and this is Impresario’s way of meaningfully extending a helping hand. “We’re hopeful that this association will trigger the rest of the hospitality industry to employ them too,” he further added.
In July 2020, Amlani launched a tech platform from where customers can order food directly, enabling the removal of the middlemen (aggregators).
Subscription-based meals
One more innovative step that Impresario has taken is to use its kitchens to service the local community by launching a subscription-based meal service in Mumbai, bringing healthy home-cooked food right to one’s doorstep.
The nutritious meals will be packed with signature flavours and will be delivered by the dabbawalas. The ‘Ghar Ka Khana’ subscription meal packages from SOCIAL will start at Rs 6,000++ per month and will be available across Khar, Vikhroli, Versova, and Lower Parel, during the first roll-out phase starting from 24th May, 2021. The option to opt for this option will be available here from May 24th.
You can click on the following to place your order and the dabbawalas will deliver the food:
Smoke House Deli
Salt Water Cafe
Outposts that are part of this:
Carter Road SOCIAL, Khar SOCIAL, Capital SOCIAL, antiSOCIAL (Lower Parel), Smoke House Deli BKC, Smoke House Deli Pali Hill and Salt Water Cafe Bandra.
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