Not everybody is a fan of train food. Not that they possess some power of not getting hungry while traveling; it’s just that food from train’s pantry cars repels them. Thoughts of unclean pantry cars, unhygienic cooking conditions, and the same old menu put them off. It hardly does anything to make their journey exciting.
E-catering or home-cooked food?
Both are a rage! When in India you cannot completely dismiss the idea of bringing home-cooked food for long train journey. Indians love doing this. It gives them a satisfaction that food bought from vendors cannot. They are ready to wake up in the wee hours and take the pain to prepare food and pack it. How they scrumptiously devour the home-made meal in train!
Those were the days of joint families and fewer working women. So, there was somebody to cook for you. Today, with nuclear families on the rise and women enjoying a career, it is not always possible to cook food and pack it for journey.
This is where e-catering comes to the rescue. Of course, most trains today have pantry cars; but you still cannot trust the cars to be completely hygienic. The Government of India has made policies. The FSSAI (the body that regulates food safety and quality) has raised an alarm about food hygiene in train. Yet, pantry cars have a long way to go before they can match e-catering services.
Reasons for the success of e-catering
One of the reasons for e-catering to be a success is that this service manages to provide hygienic and hot food for long train journey to travelers right at their train seat. Now, this is a feat hard to ignore.
The IRCTC started this service as pilot project in 45 big stations. Today, it is widespread. The Railway Ministry has also brought into force a new Catering Policy from February 2017. This empowers the IRCTC to take control of station-based kitchens, new train routes, Automatic Vendor Machines, and more. The IRCTC has even started providing baby food in train.
It cannot get simpler than this!
Ordering food online is a simple 3-step procedure:
- You choose the food vendor online
- You choose the menu
- You place an order
You get 3 ways to choose a food vendor:
- Log on to the official website of IRCTC and click at its e-catering section
- Download an app
- Send sms to 139
- Dial a toll free number 1323 that is relevant all over India
You also get options for payment. Either pay online while ordering the food, or pay in cash when the food gets delivered to your seat.
E-catering changes the food scenario of Indian railways
Some things stay unchanged. For example, you can still see local food vendors with their tasty snacks like samosas, poha, bhelpuri, aloo puri, batatavada, tea and coffee stalls,small shops selling packaged snacks like biscuits, chips, and others. The typical “chai wala” who hurries through platforms and bogies of trains selling hot masala chai or tea is still there.
Home-cooked food like puris, pickles, and home-made snacks still sit happily in passengers’ luggage, waiting to be unpacked lovingly and eaten heartily.
In trains like Shatabdi, Rajdhani, Duronto, and others, you can still find passengers eating meals from pantry cars. The meal cost is included in their ticket fare.
Despite the presence of the above unchanged things in Indian railways, e-catering has managed to brew a revolution. Now, passengers have a choice. If they don’t want, they can skip bringing home-made food. They can skip those local vendors. They can deny pantry car meals. If they want to eat cheesy, crusty pizza, they can!
That’s what e-catering has done – given passengers the power of choice in food.