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New Delhi: It's been over a month since restaurants started agitating against online food aggregators, online restaurant discovery and ordering platform Zomato has made several changes to its platform to allay concerns of restaurants. These range from pausing its Infinity dining program, restricting the offers diners can avail on its Gold membership, and rolling back certain revised terms and conditions on food delivery for its restaurant partners.

Last week, The Economic Times reported that Zomato had paused its Infinity Dining programme. Infinity dining programme was launched two months ago and allowed members of Gold to avail unlimited food and drinks at a fixed price for a limited period of time.

Moreover, it made some changes to its contentious Zomato Gold programme that is a paid membership scheme that offers complimentary food and drinks on dining-out orders. The changes were made after restaurants led by the National restaurant Association of India (NRAI) logged out of Zomato’s Gold programme on August 15 over concerns that Gold was essentially helping deal-seeking consumers avail benefits and that such steep discounts, were in return, hurting profits at eateries.

In response, on August 21, Zomato announced that it will revise terms and conditions for Gold. The key changes include restricting the use of the Gold membership to one unlock per day. It also proposed to cap the number of Gold unlocks per table, restricting it to two. An unlock is an offer that can be availed at an outlet. Interestingly, Zomato has also axed Gold ID sharing, a practice used by many users.

“Login sharing of Gold IDs leads to two things: orders that shouldn’t be discounted get discounted and for large tables, it leads to illegitimate Gold unlocks on a single table thus leading to more discount per table. We will restrict a user’s login ID to a single mobile device at a time so that login sharing becomes impossible," Deepinder Goyal, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of the company, said in an e-mail to restaurant partners on August 21.

It also said the Gold membership will now be sold to diners at an annual subscription of over Rs1,800, doing away with other packages that were priced under Rs1,000. Zomato has also discontinued trial packs of Gold.

Zomato had then said that the changes will be rolled out before 15 September. These will be applicable to over 1 million existing members of Gold, as well as new members. It currently counts over 6,000 restaurants as its partners for the Gold programme.

Moreover, in August, it also paused certain terms and conditions on food delivery that it put forth for its restaurant partners--these covered penalties levied on restaurants for delayed and cancelled orders, among other things. For instances of delayed order acceptance by restaurants Zomato said would levy a fee ranging from 5 to Rs10 on restaurant partners. It also revised the time taken for restaurants to prepare orders restricting food preparation time to 10 minutes, failing which restaurants would again be liable for a fine.

However, Zomato, rolled back these policies on the same day after a push back from restaurant partners.

The changes at Zomato come at a time when the NRAI is currently pressing food aggregators to bring a more level playing field to online delivery prompting them to end steep discounting. It has been meeting with top executives from Swiggy and Zomato to discuss these issues. In another round of meetings held with executives of the two companies last week, the NRAI said that the meetings “progressed well" even as NRAI maintained that Zomato’s Gold program remains unacceptable in its current form.

In response to Friday's meeting, a Zomato spokesperson added that it "continues to have discussions with the NRAI on all issues faced by the industry and are focused on providing solutions sustainable for all participants."

NRAI’s managing committee is slated to meet this week in Mumbai to discuss the next course of action.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Suneera Tandon
Suneera Tandon is a New Delhi based reporter covering consumer goods for Mint. Suneera reports on fast moving consumer goods makers, retailers as well as other consumer-facing businesses such as restaurants and malls. She is deeply interested in what consumers across urban and rural India buy, wear and eat. Suneera holds a masters degree in English Literature from the University of Delhi.
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Updated: 17 Sep 2019, 03:25 PM IST
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