“That beep you hear is an order request from Zomato,” says Manoj, who represents the fourth-generation at the helm of this business. “We cannot afford to lose even a second in taking that request which comes with a shopping list of preferences — “put more chutney”, “less oil and “pack every item separately”. Madam, we need to satisfy the customer more than before and that is what keeps us going in these tough times,” he says.
At a time when takeaways rule (the state government is yet to allow dine-in at outlets) adapting to the new situation well is an absolute necessity for small-sized eatery like Rayar’s Mess.
Opened in 1935, the 16-seater eatery’s staple menu includes idli, vada and pongal. In the evenings, they also serve bonda and varieties of dosas. Kumar Padmanabhan and brother Mohan Padmanabhan are from the third-generation running this enterprise that has grown largely by word of mouth.
“We need to think out-of-the box and that alone will secure the future for us,” says Manoj, who is Kumar Padmanabhan’s son.
The mess switched to online orders from Swiggy, Zomato and Dunzo, not in that order, in the nick of time.
“I still remember Swiggy was behind us in signing up as their delivery partner and my father was reluctant to make that move,” says Manoj. “Whoever thought the pandemic would force us to shut our outlet for some months and change the way we run our business. We are glad we moved to online orders in 2019,” he says.
March-May of 2020 and 2021 were the worst period in the restaurant’s business. The family-run outlet had to trim its staff to keep costs down.
“We had eight employees in the pre-COVID days. With lockdown, three have left for their hometown,” says Manoj. “Now, every staff is required to multi-task and those who are not good at a certain trade are asked to reskill.”
They have also extended the kitchen timings by two additional hours. “Yes, it is survival of the fittest.”
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