It was the year 1999, when IRCTC was armed to support the Indian Railways by undertaking the catering facility. It launched its first catering policy in the year 2000 which was first revised in 2005 and undergoes revision whenever required. It is a statutory body which made railway services online and it became easy for the customers to avail the railway related services online.
E-catering and Meal suppliers in Train:
The facility of E-catering in trains was introduced by the IRCTC through which any passenger having a PNR number (10 digit number in the top left corner on the ticket) can order food online in train of their choice. The motive behind launching this service was announced by the Chairman, Railway Board deposed as under:
We also want to give an option to the passengers to order the food as they wish. We have covered all the ‘A’ category stations, which are almost 400 stations with e-catering where one can order the food of his choice. We have also initiated a third party audit for catering.
E-catering was a boon to the passengers who booked their tickets in non-pantry car trains, especially which crossed “A” category stations. They started to use the service and appreciated it, as they were enjoying the food which they liked the most. Even the passengers of those trains having pantry car, were expressing their concern to have foods from reputed food chains. There are three ways to order food from IRCTC:
- Visit the IRCTC official e-catering website and order your food online.
- Call 1800-1034-139 or 0120-4383892-99 (Toll free) and place your order.
- SMS MEAL to 139
Though e-catering stared with some station specific services, it got popular and later the service was extended to deliver meals apart from “A” category stations. Any passenger, who ordered a meal, was delivered by the food delivery executives of IRCTC. After the successful delivery model, many private catering players entered in to the scene and started delivering their restaurant cuisines to the hungry passengers in train. In addition to above, E-catering services were also designed for safeguarding the customer’s interest as customer can pay online and thus can’t be overcharged. Other benefits were:
- Raising a complaint online.
- Passengers can rate the customer services for quality, quantity of good and better parameters.
- The services allow as many vendors to join the platform and provide ample choice to customer to order this creates a competition amongst vendors for maintaining quality.
A continuous revamp of E-catering services has also permitted food aggregators to join the E-catering initiative. Aggregators like RailRestro, have been integrated through API covering 529 vendors and 244 offline vendors have also been incorporated for e-catering services across 357 stations.
Recommended Read: How Indian Railways have Revolutionized Catering System in Trains
Unauthorized Food Suppliers in the Train:
After the launch and infusion of IRCTC’s successful food delivery model in the Indian Railways, the system also reciprocated with the inclusion of unauthorized food suppliers or vendors who were ready to sell or deliver food in train to the passengers at high prices with low quality. An unauthorized food supplier
- Has no official permission or approval to deliver food in train.
- Is not a catering partner or aggregator of IRCTC.
- Which doesn’t follow the FSSAI Standards for food quality.
- It has no proper delivery system, unhygienic packing and billing system.
- No authorized uniform or dress code /name badges of the delivery executive.
- Sells/Provides poor quality food with higher prices
No official permission or approval for Food Delivery: IRCTC has prohibited such restaurants or aggregators who have no official authority or permission to sell or deliver their food in train to the passengers. These unaccredited and unlicensed restaurants are totally banned from providing food delivery in trains.
Not a Catering Partner or Aggregator of IRCTC: Every entity who wants to deliver food in train to the passengers in the Indian Railways has compulsorily to be an aggregator or a catering partner of IRCTC. IRCTC has strictly warned the passengers not to consume any food item or order food from any unauthorized food delivery services. One can visit the official site of IRCTC and get the list of non-aggregators who are supplying meals in train. Beware! IRCTC is not responsible for any health hazards caused due to consumption of food delivered by an unauthorized food vendor.
Non-maintenance of FSSAI Standards and Quality: An unauthorized vendor or restaurant doesn’t follow the FSSAI standards of food quality and packaging. Whenever you order food with any such restaurant, you can easily recognize them through their packing or poorest food quality. If you find any such vendors selling their food items on station premises without any identity and name of the restaurant, it’s the time to be a rational passenger and avoid such food.
No accurate delivery system and billing procedures: There are many restaurants which do not possess a proper delivery chain or a POS format billing system. Such vendors can never be authorized by IRCTC for food delivery in trains.
No Authorized Uniform or Dress Code: The delivery executives of IRCTC and its aggregators have a particular dress code and a uniform displaying their brand names. It is one of the ways to identify an unauthorized vendor. Every delivery executives of IRCTC or its authorized catering partners are assigned with a uniform and a batch with his name engraved on it. These boys will have accurate food bill for your orders.
Poor quality food with high prices: These terms are a complement given by the passengers to the unauthorized vendors. These two ingredients of food delivery is itself a sign that the vendor is an unauthorized one and violating the rules of IRCTC food delivery.
What to Check while ordering food in the train journey?
- Check the list of food aggregators from IRCTC e-catering official website. Every passenger should know about the food delivery aggregators who are authorized for the same.
- You can order from IRCTC mobile application or website. Check the prices and billing properly. If you are ordering via IRCTC, stay relaxed! They have approved and authorized vendors.
- Most importantly, check the uniform of IRCTC’s delivery executive. There is a specific dress code assigned to them. These executives can’t deliver food without their specific attire.
- Be safe! Do not order anything form any food stalls which is not authorized by IRCTC. At station premises, there are many food stalls erected for selling tea, snacks, samosa rolls and other condiments. AVOID!
- Ask for the food bill. IRCTC authorized vendors will always send a bill attached with the order. Do not accept the order if it is delivered without any bill.
- NO TIP POLICY! Indian Railways have clearly mentioned that the delivery person or any pantry staff, if demands for a tip, the passenger are not entitled to provide any tip in the form of money or any other means.