Union Minister of Railways & Coal, Piyush Goyal interacted with food and beverages industries players through video conferencing while fasting from Thane. The meeting was attended by key players from the food & beverage industry, such as, Hindustan Unilever Limited, Café Coffee Day, Nestle, Travel Food Services, MoM, Bikanerwala, Taj SATS, R.K. Associates, Arenco Catering, Jubliant Food Services, Punjabi Ghasitaram Halwai (P) Ltd., CAFS, etc. The meeting was also attended by Senior officials from Ministry of Railways & IRCTC.
The meeting was held with the objectives to bring on board important suggestions issues, problems faced by key industrial players of F&B industry who are important stakeholders in delivery of catering services on Indian Railways.
Some of the key discussions related to catering services were that the issue of rate of ala-carte and standard items served on mobile catering having not increased since 2012. It was also pointed out that rates should be increased automatically with time by indexing it with WPI/CPI. Market driven prices should be given by Railways with periodical revision. The industry players also wanted that airline model of having superior quality but less variety should be followed. There should be adequate arrangement of catering services on non – pantry trains. All catering items should be priced in multiples of 5 which will aid the passengers and reduce instances of overcharging as well as eradication of unauthorized hawking on station and in trains should be done. Regular cleaning of pantry cars and introduction of hot food vending machines on Platforms and trains were also discussed, among other issues.
-Minister of Railways touched upon following issues
- There was a great stress and emphasis by Minister of Railways to warn and discourage the existing contractors of catering services from indulging in corrupt practices or in harassment of customers. He categorically stated that only approved items with the stated quantity and prices as approved in the policy should be served to the customers.
- Appreciating the demands raised by the licensees/contractors, Minister of Railways issued instructions for comprehensive improvement and sprucing up the infrastructure/ equipments of the pantry car and monitoring the same intensively with the use of mobile application.
- Licensee, Railway and IRCTC are important stakeholders in this endeavor to deliver catering services to bonafide passengers and hence, they should sit together and have a free and frank discourse so as to sort out all the problems and gaps in catering service delivery currently faced by Indian Railways.
- The terms and conditions of existing contracts should be studied threadbare and solutions related to issues of quality, infrastructure and revision of rates should be found out within that framework so as to move on a sustainable paradigm of catering services.
- Railway is at the forefront in its service to poor & middle classes population and there should be absolutely no compromise on the quality of services rendered by catering contractors. In this context, Minister of Railways stressed that all the errant contractors who compromise of quality and indulge in corrupt practices should be shown the door and Railways should frame an “Exit Policy” for the same.
- All the stakeholders in the delivery of catering services should endeavour in reduction of catering complaints of the passengers and to bring about a “Wow” experience.
- All the waiters/service delivery agents who are at the cutting edge should be counselled and warned against the practice of soliciting tips. If they are found guilty of the same, they will not only be de-boarded but also blacklisted and booked under relevant provisions of law.
- There was an underline focus to drive home the point that all the caterers/licensees should issue bills/proper receipts and for this POS machines should be proliferated in a big way for both mobile and static catering units over Indian Railways.
- In order to bring the catering services over Indian Railways in sync with the global best practices, Ready-to-Eat (RTE) meals should be proliferated over Indian Railways in a big way and the long list of number of items served on board trains should be rationalized and standardized.