Food delivery USP

(pic-courtesy: mid-day.com)

We occasionally order through Swiggy and Freshmenu. I order more frequently when the wife and kid are not in town. So far, I have been pretty happy with the quality of food, and of course, I order only from restaurants that I know, through Swiggy.

However, there is one consistent issue with the delivery/logistics. For the majority of times, there has been some leakage or seepage of some gravy or stir-fry, making its way on to every other container. Some times, it is a minor issue, and there has been at least once, where I had returned the food, where the cardboard container of my dosa was soaked in sambar.

Let us dissect this.

Factors that influence this mishap (in no particular order):

  • Packaging. I think this is taken care of by most players well enough. Freshmenu (and bowl company by Swiggy, and other major cloud kitchen players) have apt sized plastic boxes for wet stuff and cardboard boxes for dry stuff. The lids are pretty tight too. Have not faced issues there either. The restaurants that I order from, in swiggy, take care of this, as well.
  • Form-factor of the packaging and stackability. I think this is taken care of, as well. Most of these packages are standard sizes and neatly stackable.
  • The big bags of the delivery folks. The bag is a large box-ish bag with fairly solid sides. The guys stack the packages nicely as well. (So, I think, the process is not flawed).
  • The carrying of the bags. I think, this is where the problem begins. The boys sling the bag over their shoulder, rest the bag on the seats of their bikes and hit the road. I think during this time, the nicely stacked packages tilt. And hence seep and leak.

Potential solution:

While I am not an expert in logistics, let me propose a solution – the Dominos Delivery Box. This solution is not an original solution. I think, the Dominos guys solved this to an extent. The boxes are screwed on to the bikes. The pizzas and the other items are placed/stacked inside the box. So, other than the tilt of the bikes, during the traffic, there is no real tilting. I think this can also be reduced significantly by good packaging techniques and/or auto-balancing bases on the boxes.

As for the container of the food, the cloud kitchen guys have an advantage. As for the rest of the food delivery folks, my disclaimer (if you recall) was that, I order only from restaurants that pack well. If the food delivery guys want to nail the experience in the larger scale, Swiggy/Runnr/UberEats need to take packaging into their control. While I agree that it is a hard problem to solve, it would be the best damn experience. If I can order bisi bele bath from the local darshini, and the food still comes in a nice plastic leak proof tray – that is bliss. (For comparison data sakes, currently the darshini just plonks the food into an aluminium cover and heat-seals it.

An added feature that can be slapped on to this box, is a thermostat, and a feedback controlled heater – to maintain the food hot. There can be other IoT stuff instrumented into this box too – weight/temperature/time logging and tracking etc.

Food-tech/delivery guys – you listening? Now that the food delivery war is heating up (Swiggy vs Runnr vs UberEats vs Cloud Kitchen guys), it is all about USP. I think this might just be the two things. Food packed in clean containers (with no leakage/seepage) at the right temperature. Hmm. Yumm.

IoT in the Kitchen?

This idea just struck me today evening. This is in close heels to the IoT usage with the gas cylinder post that I had done a few weeks ago.

Problem to be solved: Get an accurate state of groceries that is stocked in the kitchen and potentially order them (online?). This is a very common task that is done on a fairly regular basis in most households (typically on the day when ‘monthly shopping’ is done,

Initial setup/infrastructure:

  • All grocery items to be stocked in identical pre-calibrated clear jars.
  • Item stored in the jar is bar-coded.
  • Threshold for ordering is to be set initially – by a sticker or using marker pens.

kitchen_iot

UX:

  • User invokes a smart phone app.
  • Snaps a picture of the shelf with the stacked clear containers.
  • App automatically figures out the jars with groceries lesser than the threshold set by the user.
  • The details of what is stored in the jar is obtained from the bar code.
  • User either adds the list of items to buy to his to-do list (Google keep? Wunderlist?) – or – directly adds it to his grocery list on the Bigbasket app.

Bigbasket? Zopnow? Anybody listening?

Food on Order Direct from Rooms

I was thinking quite a bit about whether to write this as a post or to add on to the previous post, but I guess ‘new post’ won.

The one problem that a lot of service apartments face is the lack of a full fledged kitchen. There might be breakfast, but that would still be fairly minimal. In the US, when I go for a business visit, a lot of the hotels would have a menu of a near-by restaurant which would deliver ~ within certain working hours of course. Most times this is a little expensive, but there are days, when you just come back to your room and plop on your room (or the ottoman) and do not want to get up. You just want someone to come and give you the food in your room.

This should be feasible in India too right? A tie up with a nearby chain? In fact, with most of these chains going the app-way or have an online site where you can order, there exists infrastructure to make this more streamlined.

  1. There could be a tablet in each room or with the reception (the first could be a premium room feature vs the latter is a normal room). ipad1
  2. Tie-ups with one restaurant for each of the four categories
  3. These would not redirect to their websites, but to potentially APIs exported by the infra from these restaurants (or an aggregator like zomato). Some restaurants and food service providers already have a good backend such as Mast Kalandar, freshmenu, spoonjoy, etc to which you should be able to link.
  4. Why not a web-site? And why API driven? I would want the tablet to be aware of my service apartment address and room number, and also, have the ability to add the bill amount to my hotel bill. So all, I would need to do is to browse, and click. End of story.
  5. Stringent SLA for delivery and quality of food can be established (failing which – you cease to be a preferred partner and will be swapped out to competition).

I sense a business opportunity here as well. This need not be something that hotel chains like oyorooms or stayzilla need to build. This could be very well be an independent platform. Well, somebody like zomato can potentially build it though.

 

Where I dissect the MastKalandar Website/Branding Update

Yesterday I saw an FB post and a tweet pointing to something called the MKDabbawala. I was intrigued. It had the same branding colors thankfully of yellow and orange and the same MK letters in the same font. So atleast I thought, it was the same brand.

  • But What is that tiffin carrier doing in the logo? Are they pivoting? They are moving away from restaurant style business to regular home delivery, or something similar? These were the thoughts that were going through my mind.

And then I went to their website. First look, well, it looked better than what it looked before. Fresh, clean start. I started poking around.

mk1

  • The first dissonance hit me right away. On the masthead was both the new logo and the old one. Uh. What? And then I saw the small text “Powered by”. So, they were not pivoting by adding a new feature. I guessed that, other than the restaurant service, they were probably introducing a new tiffin carrier service.
  • But then, why is the new service such a prominent part of the masthead and on the main page.
  • Fine, I went along. Ok, so my next thought was, they are rebranding into ‘ordinary food’ (which is probably delivery only and in a tiffin carrier?) and ‘special food; (probably only in restaurants, but perhaps delivery too). Fair enough. I know several people who eat regularly at MK.
  • Awright, keep moving, keep moving. Lets have what they have on offer. The ‘difference’ between these two foods are (and yes, they are putting two things side by side, which by cognitive theory means, they are comparing. Or, arnt they?)

mk2

 

  • Menu on the dabba thing changes very day. Nice. Oh it is super fast delivery – faster than normal?. And I thought the traditional flavors thing was a common thing across all MK dishes. We will let that slip. Perhaps the right hand column has more exotic stuff.
  • Wide range of North Indian food and memories of home –  Hmm. OK. Again I thought was across the board. Every dish made to order. So the dabba things are pre-prepared? What?
  • Lets move on to how to order.

mk3

 

  • So the dabba is delivery and hence can be ordered by app or website. And the other ‘regular’ or ‘exotic’ stuff (I cant make up my mind), you can either get it delivered or eat in the restaurant. Fair enough. I can wrap my mind around that.
  • Let us try ordering some tiffin carrier food. I clicked on the left card.
  • And a new tab opened. Firstly, I am not a big fan of you opening tabs for me. Show it to me on the same page. In 2 minutes flat on perusing your webpage, this was what my tabs was like. I have enough tabs that I open, and I dont want three more.

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  • I like the high level look and feel of this page when it opens. It shows “Aaj ka dabba” – which is for non-hindi-speakers, “Todays dabba” or “Todays selection”. I would not harp on the Hindi, because Mast Kalandar’s target audience has always been North Indians living in South India. Let us not make a pretense out of it. And I see nothing wrong in it. It is a large market, and they are focused.
  • There are 6 things in todays dabba, where I can choose from. The mouse-overs explain the dishes. I have a minor problem with the text. I think it should be more explanatory. Do not say, bite into parathas. I want to know whether there is going to be one paratha or two. I want to order here. Same goes for the rest of the dishes as well. The only thing that had count was the laddoo. When I read the description, I want the text to help me decide whether I can finish the dish or not, if I am hungry enough for it or not.
  • Also, please make the page responsive (get the target screen-size and resize with respect to that – yes, it can be done). THere are six dishes and I still need to scroll down just a bit  because the last row is only 80% displayed. Typically this UX behavior is only reserved if you have more stuff coming below. There is one unnecessary scroll down that was waster.

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  • So I click on an Order button. It asks me for City and area. Currently it is only Bangalore and Koramangala. It is 6:30 in the morning here, as I write this, and it nicely says that the restaurant is closed now, but I can pre-order. Nice touch.

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mk7

 

  • I click on pre-order, and I am presented with the daily menu. Nice and clean. I like the fact, you see the cart in the same screen. The only minor nit that I have is the plus (+) sign in a square. Traditionally this is reserved for an expander. So you might have people clicking on it to see if there is more text on the menu item. For this, typically you may want to use the “+” within a circle.
  • And where did this green and yellow come from? So far away from your brand colors. It is definitely a bit jarring at first glance.
  • Dear webdeveloper who did the order details page, there must be a better way to validate if the person has ordered something or not, than this:

mk8

  • So I chose something and clicked on ‘Order. There are a couple of things that I really like in this next screen.

mk9

 

  • I love it that you can log-in or order as a guest. Love it that you can order for now, or for later. I guess this is inspiration from the many taxi-apps that we have these days. And wow, I can order upto 2-3 days in advance. Nice. I don’t think anyone else has this. You should market the hell out of this feature. It is now so hidden in there.
  • The tool tips make no sense at all. And I cannot figure out which field is mandatory and which is not.

mk10

 

  • And aaaargh, the scrolling. Please, make the page responsive. I do not want to scroll for 2 more lines. There is so much white space that you can utilize here, and yet look clean.
  • I fill in some junk in some of the boxes and hit continue. And then it tells me the mandatory fields. There is now a red ‘i’ in the two more boxes, which never existed before.

 

 

mk12

  • The form validation is all messed up. I tried giving various wrong combinations, and it always pointed to the wrong fields and kept saying “Please enter all fields”. Not very helpful, nor accurate.
  • I like the “Bring change for ” feature. It could be a little more explanatory though. And if you are going to have only COD, why have a step called “Payment Options”. If you are going to have more payment options coming up, say so (More Payment options coming up).
  • And hey, why cannot I pay using loyalty points? You have my log in details.
  • And whoa, I did something wrong, back button or something, and I cannot find my cart now. No option to go back to my cart? Where is the options icon now? I just noticed it is not present in the menu. And when I go back to the main menu, I still do not see a view cart button anywhere. Ok. Big Bummer here.
  • Ok. I now have to click on one of the Order Now buttons in the menu to get to the cart.
  • I am now officially done with the Daily dabba. And I still fully cannot wrap my head around the ‘dabba’ concept. Nothing in my experience above seems to indicate it is anything new. I do not see a tiffin carrier service here at all. No repetitive ordering/monthly payment option. It is a smaller menu.

Let us get to the “Full Menu”. You can get to the full menu either from the dabba page or from the main page. This is fair, because I may find the dabba menu too restrictive and I want to see more. (And please do not put Aur Dikhao, please please).

  • I click on the full menu (or the right card on the main page) and I see this.

mk14

 

  • The three dots show me that there are three images that you are cycling through. Ok. But should you not be cycling them yourself? A marquee scroll plug-in if you will? I should not have to do search for the small ‘white’ right/left arrow to go see the next image. And, in a good UX page, the arrow buttons are never always visible, they come up when you mouse over to that area.
  • Also every one of your three images spills over to your left. You have so much space left, why cut your images. Alignment problems I think.
  • I thought you only had types of menus – “Aaj ka dabba” and “Full menu”. What is the express menu? Where did that pop up? Is that the same as the dabba menu?
  • Ok, I want to see the menu. I keep searching, menu, menu, menu .. where are you menu … cmon out kitty …
  • What! You need to click on Order now, and only then can you see the menu? Oh cmon, MastK, you can do better than that. This is almost real-estate agent tactics. “Nahin Sir, Cant get the keys to the flat unless you commit.”
  • Ok, I stumble past the Order Now.
  • I now have to give my city and location again, else, you wont show me the menu.

mk16

 

  • Ok. Nice and clean, again. Same feedback about the plus in the square though.
  • Also, my preference – if you are going to showing categories, show only the items in the highlighted category in the second column.
  • Have another item called “Show me All” and show all the items there. Again, my cognitive dissonance may be different from yours.
  • I see the dissonating green color permeating here as well. Whats up with the new brand color?
  • No pictures for these items? If you can show pictures for your dabba menu, why not atleast a mouse-hover or a picture icon, where I can click and see what I want to get? A Bengali person might want to see how the Litti Chokha is, right? You may want to think about that.
  • And what is this “HD” acronym that I see everywhere in the menu?
  • I think there is spacing issues in your menu css. The first bits are fine.

mk17

  • But then when you go down to the ala carte items, the spacing seems to have gone out of whack (too much white space in my opinion). The screen itself is a contained screen. Clicking on the arrow

mk18

 

  • Also what is this upwards facing green arrow. I clicked and understood that it is “Scroll up to top.” In some pages, it makes sense. I still do not think that it is very intuitive. There are other established ways to do that.
  • There are pages with the green arrow, that do not need it – like the payments page. The page itself is a contained page. When I click the arrow, it just bumps me up a couple of lines.

mk19_1

 

  • There was just one more thing that I wanted to test. The more options menu in the main page. Firstly, this should be everywhere – in every page. Secondly, please add a “My Cart” option here.

mk24

 

  • Order online takes you through all of the above stuff I spoke about.
  • The Food love story and the Chefs corner is fine – but very sparsely populated.
  • I clicked on Store Locator. And that is when I realized MastKalandar had only one store in India, in Koramangala, Bangalore.

mk25

 

  • Guys – if the page is not finished yet, put a “beta sticker” on it. Or atleast, say “In construction”. Cmon. This is so not done.
  • And what the heck is the feedback form doing in the Locate Us page?
  • And I did not expect much from the Contact Us page, either and it did not disappoint.

mk26

  • I do not know about you, but I cannot figure this one out. Ok. You are giving me your corporate address and phone and email address. And a “Get Directions” to your Corporate office. Really?
  • And is that a feedback form to the right? You should put a sub label tag on it – “Write to us” or something like that.

In summary:

  • Noble effort to try and change the previous website (which sucked big time). New cleaner page. Several nice new features. There are UX nits that I have highlighted above. Sincere advise to the web-guys. If you are not done testing the website, please do not release it. Or put a beta sticker on it. Or put a “Under construction” sign somewhere.
  • More importantly, I think the branding theme needs to be fixed. This Dabba thing is too confusing. It seems to be deviating from what you are. Just call it express (or daily menu) and full menu. Too much shock to the consumer is also not good.
  • I just noticed one more thing. And perhaps this could perhaps be the most important non-technical non-UX thing in this post. There are 4 branding perspectives you are confusing the user with here.

mk20

mk21

mk22

mk23

 

  • In branding, logos, fonts, taglines/bylines are sacred.

 

 

4 things I would love to see Mast Kalandar do

371609-mast-kalandar-old-airport-road

As most of my reader base know, I am die hard fan of Mast Kalandar. From the time, when I ‘converted’ to MK, because it was the only pure veg chain, to now appreciating the various initiatives, and their prompt social media presence.

As I do for most things I am a fan of, I am never satisfied. I always want more. See my wish list for BigBasket here. And MK is not getting excused either 🙂 So here goes:

Mobile App: Well, hellooo ! Are you guys sleeping or what? Why is there not a Mast Kalandar app yet? I want to be able to order my food through the MK app. I want to be able track the delivery through it (yes, I order home delivery quite a bit). What would I like in the app? That is a bigger post for a different day. What is even more irritating is that, their website itself is not even mobile optimized. Sucks to even to take a look at the menu on a mobile. Guys, please — develop a mobile app (android/iphone/winphone). And please mobile optimize your website. I tried reaching out to their twitter handle (@mastk) about a year ago, and they said they were working on it. A year, and it is not yet ready? Oh cmon.

Packaging for Roti/Kulchas: As I said earlier, we do order home deliver often. Have you considered alternative packaging techniques for rotis/kulchas? Rolling and wrapping in aluminium foil is so yesterday. Sure, it retains the heat, but it just spoils the taste. The humidity just makes the rotis/naans become hard. I am not an expert in packaging, nor have I done experiments, but have you tried perhaps some form of a pizza box type packaging. Maybe they would stay warm and also retain freshness? Worth a try na?

Indian salads: Have you guys tried creating Indian salads? The Indian market for healthy food is heating up like anything. Have you tried salads with traditional indian veggies and even more traditional chutneys as dressings? Perhaps a try? And I am sure, with the whole patriotism (Make in India, Eat Indian food, whatever), this will catch on pretty well.

Food for train journeys: Guys, you need to do this. There are so many times, I had wished I had ordered food through MK, and they deliver it to me either in the platform. Also, you should explore a rail menu. Stuff that does not get bad even after a few hours. There was a time, when I had packed something from MK (I dont remember what?), but it got bad after a few hours. I am not blaming MK for it – perhaps the ingredients were such. But I am sure you can come up with a menu with stuff that stays for a few hours. Combine it with the above mentioned ability to order through a mobile app, and good solid pizza box style packaging, this would ensure a hearty comfortable meal to eat, even in a moving train.

Well, thats it for now. I sure wish someone from the product management team in MK reads this.

 

Nachos all the way …

Wow. I knew some foods have a lot of passionate eaters. I know folks who argue about how pizzas should be. I even know folks who argue about how dosas should be. Why, there is also this bitter divide between whether tangy tamil sambar is better than the slightly sweet kannadiga sambar. With respect to analysis on American food, the NY Times always take the ticket.

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Read through the analysis of Nachos places in New York [link].

Sigh. Looking at some of those platters make me hungry though.

(via kottke)

(image courtesy the same link above)

99 Variety Dosa – Koramangala – Food Truck

Oh boy, this is good stuff. This is a food truck – an articulated auto. Good quality ingredients used (all amul stuff). We tried this on friday and last friday. Both experiences were very good. Tried different types of dosa. There are basically 4 different varieties – chinese base, pav bhaji base, potato base, and cheese base.

The chinese base has a smattering of chilli, garlic, and soya sauces. Some have cooked noodles and shredded cabbage tossed in.

The pav bhaji base has the pav bhaji masala as the base. A smattering of all kinds of vegetables, cheese and paneer are toppings based on your choice.

The potato base or the mysore masala as it is called has the traditional “aloo palya” base and a smattering of vegetables, cheese, or paneer as toppings based on your choice.

The cheese base has veggies and cheese. period. Each dosa with cheese in its name gets a grated cheese cube (oh yeah, one full cheese cube grated fully!).

All in all, good stuff. Do check this out. This is on the road that joins the NGV gate and the forum road – also called 80 ft road. When you head from the NGV gate, there are two positions that this food truck takes. It is either on the left, right outside the Laxmi Devi Park ; or further down the road on the right hand side right opposite to the Ganpati temple.

The Vegetarian Chef …. is no more.

tarla_Dalal_midday_360x270It takes guts for someone to take up vegetarian cuisine and take it to new heights that it had never seen before. There are chefs. And there is Tarla Dalal. Or should I now say, there was Tarla Dalal.

I never knew her. I never met her. But she lived in our hearts. We saw her every day. In her cook books. In her magazines. In her website. In her youtube videos.

I baked my first cake using her recipe. My wife has made countless innovative vegetarian dishes by refering her books. There was a bond. Food is something that is very close to us. And if someone is there teaching us how to cook good food, that person is family.

In a country where the majority of the population eats both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, chefs survive by publishing cook-books with both kinds of recipes. So for folks like us who are “pure-vegetarians”, we were left to browse these books at book stores and see which of these had more number of vegetarian recipes and pick them.

I read somewhere that, after her husband passed away at an early age, it was her son, Mr. Sanjay Dalal, who encouraged her to take this up. He is a genius. Again, I have not met him. I do not know him. But the sheer idea of promoting vegetarian cooking as a mainstream publishing media house is genius. Mexican cooking. Italian cooking. Lebanese. You name it. She had a book. All in simple easy to cook recipes. All with ingredients that are easily available in the market. All of them taught in a patient, almost grandmotherly tone.

The country will remember you, Mrs Dalal. I will remember you forever. My memory of you will always be the grandmotherly way by which you taught your delightful cooking. I will remember the ways you start your youtube videos by — “This is so simple. Anybody can do it. Right now. Chalo. Lets start.”

Tarla Dalal R.I.P

The last Tarla video that we watched and learned from – just this past weekend. And yes, the brownies came out delightfully good.