Humble cafeterias go high-tech as companies eye digitisation

Sonal Khetarpal   New Delhi     Last Updated: January 16, 2018  | 22:05 IST
Humble cafeterias go high-tech as companies eye digitisation

As companies are looking to digitize their workplaces, the humble cafeterias are also going all high-tech. One such startup that is helping companies create digital cafeterias is HungerBox.

"F&B is the second biggest utility service that a company provides to its employees and there is no expert to manage it. It is often the facilities manager who doubles up as the F&B expert," says its co-founder Sandipan Mitra was earlier the founder of a food ordering site Justeat.in, which was acquired by FoodPanda.

This Bangalore-based foodtech firm brings the cafeteria on the app so the employee can order from his desk and go to the cafeteria once their order is ready, saving time and the hassle of long queues.

K Harish, Admin head of technology conglomerate ABB says as they were digitizing their facilities and admin services, it was imperative to provide the same digital experience to the employees in the cafe too.

"We have realized there is a reduction of 10-12 minutes of the employee's time in the cafeteria which has increased its utilization space," says Harish.

This is largely because most of the logistics of eating in an office is then taken over by the HungerBox app. The user selects the food to be ordered, pay from any one of the 54 payments options available and places the order all from the app. They can leave their workstation once they get a notification that the food is ready. This reduces the turnaround time for the ordered food and also reduces the load on the cafeteria especially during peak hours of lunch and dinner.

The only challenge, says Harish, is if there is poor internet connectivity for employees and food vendors. For that the company has provided them access to Wifi and also an internet dongle as an alternative. Around 1800 employees at ABB order daily from the HungerBox app.

The company claims that they customize the app for each of their clients based on their requirements. For instance, in one company the app wishes employees on their birthday and give them free food to celebrate their big day. Then at their clients' behest they have launched the concept of 'Eat now, Pay later' in which employees can pay their food bills anytime within 15 days.  

They also provide data to the employees on which vendors are getting high volumes leading to longer wait time and information on seating.

Six months back, they started aggregating nearby restaurants for those employees who are working till late.

Their revenue comes from partnering with food vendors and charging a commission on every order placed. "For every food vendor, 15-22% of the money gets lost due to pilferage. Online payments solve this problem as they get all the money upfront," says Mitra. Vendors also get a dashboard where they can see analytics on what food items sell most, what people like. Currently, the company has tied up with 445 corporate food vendors.

It is not just digitising but they take over the operations management of the corporate canteen as well. They also place a site supervisor at each of their client location, helping companies curate the right mix of food vendors and menu and also ensure all food safety and compliances are duly met.

They have digitized 130 cafeterias for their 68 clients in eight cities of India. Bigwigs such as Accenture, Capegemini, Mercedes R&D, Microsoft have all digitised their cafes using the HungerBox's mobile app.

Mitra claims they get 1.2 lakh transactions a day on their digital cafe app.

HungerBox had raised seed round from Growth Story and is looking for a second round of funding.

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