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#12 | Swiggy subscription makes food look cheaper
What's cooking - Qualitative study to understand food in urban households
My mom once joked about how television saved her marriage by removing the need to talk to my dad during dinner. But on a more serious note, the very technology that was meant to bring us closer together has actually driven us further apart. Have you ever stopped to think about what it means when we use our phones at the dinner table? It's crazy how these little devices have made their way into our personal lives and disrupted our family time. It's like that saying, too much of a good thing can be harmful - even something as sweet as nectar can be poisonous if consumed in excess.
Last year I had a bunch of chats with people from metro cities to understand how our food habits have evolved. As a part of the project, I met Subhash from Bangalore, who lives with his wife and their 6-year-old son. He told me about the tradition of no digital devices during dinner time!
Here are some highlights from our chat.
No device dinners 📵
Do you have a ritual of eating food together as a family?
Yes, we have a ritual of having dinner together and ensuring no calls during that time. Usually, dinner is around 7:45 or 8:00 pm., and all three of us sit at the table. We used to be pretty successful in keeping devices away, but recently my son has been sneaking his phone in. It's becoming a challenge, but we'll have to fight that battle again.
Why are no devices allowed during this time?
Let me take you back to pre-COVID times when we used to go to the office and come back. During those times, our son was younger, and the only time we had with him was during dinner. We've never had a live-in nanny in the past four years, so dinner time allowed us to disconnect everything and hang out with our son. We would chat, play games, and have some quality family time. It's a ritual that we are trying to extend and make more disciplined. It's not easy now that he's older and may not want to engage with us as much. But we're lucky that we give him 30 minutes of screen time before dinner, and then we switch off all devices and chat during dinner. We talk about our day, ask him about his school, and get a sense of what's happening in his life. As a parent, it helps me to connect with him and unwind from the day. It's a precious time that we cherish as a family.
Do your peers also prioritize having dinner together to spend time with family?
I'm not sure bout my peers; we haven't discussed it. However, my wife and I grew up in households where having dinner together was an everyday ritual. So we're trying to hold onto that tradition, and I think our upbringing is influencing our decision to prioritize family dinner time.
Three-way grocery purchase 🛒
Can you give more details about the groceries order online?
I use Super Daily for my milk, which includes three things I order - Chicken Breast, which I consume daily, Almond milk for my milkshake, and any item that gets consumed faster than anticipated, such as Eggs. Whenever there's a price mismatch, especially for the expensive Almond milk, I shop around on various apps like Dunzo or BigBasket to find the cheapest option. The delivery pays for itself because if buy two containers of one-litre packs. Even a small difference of 20-30 Rupees makes a significant impact. Today, the brand of Almond milk I buy, Epigamia, was selling at MRP on Super Daily, but I found it for 245 Rupees on Big Basket, which is a significant difference. I placed the order on Big Basket this morning at 5:36 am, which has already arrived.
What made you curious to think this could be available elsewhere at a lower cost?
Let me explain. Initially, I used to order Chicken Breast from Licious since Super Daily didn't have it. However, while ordering something else on Dunzo, I came across the price of Chicken Breast, which was 15% cheaper than Licious. So, I started ordering Chicken Breast on Dunzo. Another time, Super Daily was out of Epigamia, so I checked Dunzo and found it at a better rate than the other place and ordered it from there. Thus, I discovered the cheaper options due to stocking issues in my home.
Can you talk a little bit about your bulk grocery purchase?
Previously, the household help would not buy groceries at the market. Instead, they would give me a list on Saturdays, and I would have to order everything. This became a tedious cycle for me, and it didn't make sense since they had little time to occupy. So, I suggested to my wife that we break it up and allow them to buy stuff at the grocery store. However, for bulk items, it made more sense to buy online since you get a better price. For example, you wouldn't find 6 Kg Surf Excel packs in stores, but you can get a 4+2 Kg pack online at a significant discount. Also, physically bringing these heavier items back to the house was difficult for them even though they used a car. Since the Surf and similar items last for 8 to 10 weeks, buying them incrementally wasn't a problem. I also discovered that I would cross the free shipping threshold if I bought two items together. Therefore, it made sense to split the items into fresh items and heavier, bulkier items to make the process more manageable. Fresh items like Dals are not heavy, so they bring them in, while the physically heavier items are ordered online.
Does your household help purchase from the grocery store inside your apartment complex?
No, they don't go to the grocery store within the complex. There are a couple of stores nearby that they are familiar with and where the quality of fresh produce is good enough, so they manage it themselves. We don't dictate which store they should visit, as it's not worth our time. Besides, they've been working with us for at least 7-8 years, so we have established trust and rapport with them.
The subscription illusion 🤑
Could you elaborate a bit on the food ordering habits at home, specifically when it comes to using Swiggy or Zomato?
How we order food has evolved, and I want to share the details with you. Initially, my wife used to ask me to order food as I had the food delivery apps on my phone, but I got annoyed and asked her to install the app herself. We order food about twice a week, but it has decreased lately because I am more health-conscious. I used to order coffee randomly as well, but I realized I was spending too much money on it each month. We have someone at home who can make coffee, and it's not like the coffee we ordered was that great, so I stopped ordering coffee. It was a bit of a catch-22 because I had a Swiggy subscription that made everything appear cheaper due to no delivery fees, but I eventually cut back on it. We used to order more meals earlier, but now we go out for dinner on Friday evenings instead. One Friday, we randomly started this habit by going to Koramangala, 80 feet road, and eating dinner. We found out that Friday evening traffic is not as bad as Saturday evening traffic, so we continued with the routine. Both my wife and I order food independently now, even though it is inefficient. We used to eat out more before COVID, and this behavior is starting to resurface.
What are the other factors that influence the reduction of online ordering?
Another factor influencing our food ordering behaviour is that our cook at home is quite skilled. We often send her a YouTube video and she is able to cook it to perfection. In fact, just two weeks ago, she made Pani Puri from scratch at home. So, we rarely ever need to order food from outside. However, to answer your question, when we order food from outside, we typically order Pizza, Pasta, or Pan-Asian cuisine, including Chinese. These are the main cuisines that we order, unless we are in the mood for something particularly interesting and Indian that cannot be cooked at home.
The restaurant discovery friend 🥙
How do you discover new restaurants?
I have only two primary sources for discovering new restaurants; now that I think about them, they are pretty limited. The first is Condé Nast Traveller magazine, and the second is a friend of mine who is an extreme foodie. If I message him about any city, he'll list five places I can eat. He is so knowledgeable about food that he knows restaurant managers and can even order off-menu items. Going out to eat with him is always a unique experience. I don't enjoy the random process of discovering new places, especially since the quality of reviews on food delivery apps is often inadequate. Although I know that companies like Zomato and Swiggy are working on improving their review rating mechanism by adding more context, it still isn't enough for me. When I order from a new restaurant, I don't have a clear understanding of what their signature dish is or what they recommend, and I don't have any recommendations based on my previous orders. However, when I check a restaurant's Dine out section on Zomato, I can see which dishes are recommended based on customer reviews. The problem is that matching an NLP engine's recommendations with a restaurant's menu is challenging. If food delivery apps could solve this issue, it would be great.
That’s all I had for today. How do you discover restaurants to explore? Comment your answer below :) See you in another episode of the What’s cooking series next month.