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Home » IANS » McDonald’s take-out biz has seen significant traction: Smita Jatia (IANS Exclusive)

McDonald’s take-out biz has seen significant traction: Smita Jatia (IANS Exclusive)

By IANS
Published on :

By Sanjeev Sharma

New Delhi, June 22 (IANS) McDonald’s take-out business has been seeing significant traction be it through store pick-up, drive-thrus or on-the-go pick-up, according to Smita Jatia, Managing Director, Hardcastle Restaurants Pvt Ltd.

Hardcastle Restaurants Pvt Ltd is a subsidiary of Westlife Development Limited which focuses on setting up and operating McDonald’s restaurants in West and South India.

In an interview with IANS, Jatia said it’s too early to comment on dine-in as it has barely been a week and it will take some time for the fear psychosis to subside and the new normal for dining-in to set in. “But we are confident that once we get back to normalcy, dine-in business will also pick up,” she added.

On the emerging consumer trends in Covid times, Jatia said with customers being paranoid about safety and hygiene being followed by restaurant brands, they are going to strongly gravitate towards brands with high trust scores.

In addition, customers will continue to be wary of stepping out for coming months and will seek convenience of getting food with minimal exposure and contact. “This may include getting your food through delivery, store pick-up, on-the-go or even drive-thrus,” she added.

The pandemic is going to have some economic repercussions and so people will look for branded affordability – branded, safe and yet affordable eating out options, according to Jatia.

Jatia said Westlife has also leveraged technology to give our customers a completely new McDonald’s experience through our digitally enabled ‘Experience of the Future’ restaurants.

These restaurants that have self-ordering kiosk, digital menu boards, tech-enabled table service and tablets and air chargers changed the game for the QSR industry in India by setting a completely new benchmark for customer experience, she said.

“We also launched the unique McDonald’s app last year that gave customers personalized offers basis their buying behavior and preferences, which today has more than 3 million downloads,” she added.

Here are the excerpts:

Q: How has McDonald’s and Westlife performed given the COVID-19 challenges?

A: The COVID-19 pandemic is a black swan event that has presented unprecedented challenges for businesses across various sectors. However, at Westlife we took this crisis as a defining leadership moment and embraced it to increase agility, take decisive actions and empower teams to come out of it bigger, better and stronger.

For the safety of all customers and employees, we proactively stepped up our already world class safety and hygiene processes and ensured that all our crew members had access to all protective gears. We also went a step ahead to ensure that similar standards of hygiene were also being followed by our suppliers. Anticipating the concerns of our customers we also were among the first QSR brands to launch innovative business solutions such as Contactless Delivery and Contactless Takeout.

These customer and people forward initiatives coupled with our strong business foundation and robust balance sheet ensured that we were able to ensure business continuity and navigate COVID-led challenges while minimizing long-term impact on the business.

Q: What are the changes in the restaurant’s formats and initiatives in the social distancing and hygiene context?

A: For the last two months, we have constantly been tracking the evolving situation, taking global learnings and doing all we can to ensure our restaurants remain as safe as possible for our customers and employees. We have implemented a stringent 42- pointer checklist and activated contactless operations across our dine-in, delivery and take-out services.

We are ensuring daily health screening for all customers and employees coming to the restaurants. For strict social distancing, we have created markings in our restaurants and kitchens and implemented an alternate table and chair seating arrangement in the dining area. Our crew in the restaurants and kitchens will be now be seen wearing PPE gear like masks and gloves and will have access to global standard sanitizers.

The McDonald’s restaurant leadership team and crew membersare receiving specialized training conducted by FSSAI on precautionary measures against COVID- 19.

We are ensuring the preparation and handling of food is being done in a completely contactless manner at our kitchens also. We have gone a step ahead to ensure that equally stringent processes are also being followed at our suppliers’ end. We have left no stone unturned to address all possible safety concerns and give our customers a safe and delightful McDonald’s experience in the new normal.

Q: What are the steps taken to bring down costs and conserve cash?

A: We have taken this crisis as an opportunity to revisit every single element of our cost, eliminate redundancies and optimize every rupee that we are spending. While keeping the business well-lubricated, we have been able to rationalize costs across supply chain and operations.

Q: What are the footfalls in the restaurants post the lockdown?

A: We believe customers have been eagerly waiting to go out and do feel good things after being at home for so many days. We are seeing this reflect in our business as our take-out business has been seeing significant traction be it through store pick-up, drive-thrus or on-the-go pick-up. It’s too early to comment on dine-in as it has barely been a week and it will take some time for the fear psychosis to subside and the new normal for dining-in to set in. But we are confident that once we get back to normalcy, dine-in business will also pick up.

Q: The delivery market is getting more traction. What are the initiatives on this front?

A: Even before a complete lockdown was announced across the country, we had launched contact-less delivery to make sure that customers continued getting safe and hygienic food in times they needed us the most.

Additionally, we showed great agility and launched our new McDelivery app to provide our customers added convenience. As the lock-down started easing, we activated other convenience platforms such as contact-less take-out which gave customers the option of ordering food through the app and collecting the same from our restaurants through store pick-up, drive-thrus and on-the-go in a contactless manner. Going forward these convenience platforms are going to be key levers of strategy for us.

Q: How is Westlife aiming to become a food-tech company?

A: Technology has been a cornerstone of our business and we have been investing significantly in technology and weaving it across our operations – both to optimize efficiencies across operations and to deliver convenience and value to customers.

We were one of the first brands to launch our own delivery app back in 2013, even before the food delivery market had started exploding. We also leveraged technology to give our customers a completely new McDonald’s experience through our digitally enabled ‘Experience of the Future’ restaurants.

These restaurants that have self-ordering kiosk, digital menu boards, tech-enabled table service and tablets and air chargers changed the game for the QSR industry in India by setting a completely new benchmark for customer experience. We also launched the unique McDonald’s app last year that gave customers personalized offers basis their buying behavior and preferences, which today has more than 3 million downloads.

At the same time, technology has been key in driving efficiencies and sustainability across business for us. We have deployed a unique Energy Management System, that helps us monitor, control and analyse consumption of energy (gas, diesel, electricity and temperature) across all McDonald’s restaurant. In FY19 alone this technology helped us save 28 lakh units of electricity, close to 2400 gas cylinders. This not only helped us save cost but also brought down our carbon footprint by close to 2,300 tonnes.

A strong technology backbone has helped us in a big way even during COVID-19 crisis to ensure business continuity and will be our key competitive advantage in the new normal.

Q: How do you see consumer preferences changing in times of Covid?

A: There are three key themes that I see emerging:

1) Assurance – With customers being paranoid about safety and hygiene being followed by restaurant brands, they are going to strongly gravitate towards brands with high trust scores and those who follow the highest standards of food safety and hygiene

2) Convenience – Customers will continue to be wary of stepping out for coming months and will seek convenience of getting food with minimal exposure and contact. This may include getting your food through delivery, store pick-up, on-the-go or even drive-thrus.

3) Value – The pandemic is going to have some economic repercussions and so people will look for branded affordability – branded, safe and yet affordable eating out options.

Q: Will the restaurant category see traction given the concerns over health?

A: Although consumers may be wary of stepping out for some more time, they will also need to do feel-good activities to break the monotony. But it is true that customers will be very careful about the brands they engage with and will seek brands that have high trust scores and uphold the highest standards of food safety and hygiene.

I believe once colleges and offices open, consumers will look for a safe space to socialize over value-for-money meals. In this regard, QSR brands like McDonald’s will be best placed to meet these evolving needs of the consumers and serve them in a safe and convenient way.

(Sanjeev Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS

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(This story has not been edited by Newsd staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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