NEW DELHI : Online food delivery and listing platform Zomato has extended its Gold program to delivery, taking its popular program that was recently at the heart of the conflict between the country’s largest restaurants and the food aggregator beyond eating out to now ordering in. Gold on delivery could significantly disrupt the market as it will give complementary offers to its members.

Existing and new Zomato Gold members will be able to use the benefits of Gold for home delivery orders now, the company said in a statement Friday. The program is available in 16 cities starting today. Zomato Gold users will be able to use their membership while ordering food delivery. Earlier, Zomato Gold was valid only on eating out.

Zomato Gold for dining-out and delivery is operational in 16 cities. By next week, the company said the program will expand to 25 more cities including Agra, Amritsar, Aurangabad, Bhopal, Mangalore, Mysore, Nashik, Patiala, Patna, Raipur, Ranchi, Surat, Udaipur, Vadodara, Varanasi, among others. In all, it will be available in over 40 cities over the next few days.

Mint had first reported the development on August 31. The comlmay was scheduled to launch the program in August but its plan was postponed over protests led the Nationa Restaurant Association of India that has been agitating over its Gold program over concerns that it is hurting profitability at eateries.

“Food delivery was in its early stages when we launched the Gold program in 2017. Over the last 18 months, with its order frequency, it has changed the contours of food consumption in India," Mohit Gupta, CEO- Delivery, Zomato, said explaining the company’s move to extend Gold on delivery.

Zomato Gold was launched in 2017 as a membership program that would give diners ofders on eating out. Over the years, it has added over 1.1 million members and over 6000 restaurant partners.

The company has roped in another 13000 restaurants for Gold on delivery.

“Today, Gold drives 25-30% business for its restaurant partners and more and more Gold users (90%) are exploring new restaurants because of the program. It, therefore, makes eminent sense to extend this discovery behaviour to the delivery restaurant base," said Gaurav Gupta, Co-founder and COO, Zomato.

Existing members of Zomato Gold will have access to food delivery privileges for no additional charges along with some FUP (Fair Usage Policy) revisions in their existing membership. Existing members will be limited to two “unlocks" per day (one dining-out and one delivery). Membership will also be limited to a single device per person, the company said.

Gold on Delivery will offer the second-highest priced item on the order free, except for in the case of combos, MRP items and special dishes. It will only apply on minimum order value of 300 with discount capped to Rs300 per order, the compnay added.

Zomato’s Gold membership is priced at Rs1800 for an annual package.

Zomato’s move to launch Gold in delivery comes after restaurants have raised concerns over its program that they say benefits deal seeking diners and hurts restaurants.

On the rollout of Gold on delivery, the NRAI continued to maintain that Gold in its current form is an "unacceptable proposition." In a statement on Friday night, the NRAI said that Gold on deliveries will continue to "promote discounts."

"Launch of Zomato Gold on delivery is a desperate attempt by Zomato to shore up the sinking fortunes of their flagship Zomato Gold programme. It is also another instance of Zomato changing the goalpost-Gold was originally launched as a tool to promote the culture of dining out but now it is being extended on deliveries too. Essentially, it is now a program that merely promotes deep discounts on both dine-in and delivery verticals, the cost of which is borne solely by the restaurant partners," Anurag Katriar, president, NRAI said in a statement.

On August 15, a few hundred restaurants led by the NRAI staged a log out of platforms such as Zomato Gold, Dineout and EazyDiner over deep discounts doled out by them. This eventually turned into a large-scale protest, with NRAI recently raising its displeasure with online delivery companies such as UberEats, Swiggy, Zomato and Foodpanda.

Katriar added that NRAI's disapproval of Gold was expressed to the Zomato team in recent meetings. "However, in utter disregard to the viability of restaurant fraternity, they have chosen to extend the programme further to the delivery vertical as well," he said.

The online food aggregator and delivery platform has been on loggerheads with the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) that 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 earlier this month, the NRAI said that the meetings “progressed well" even as NRAI maintained that Zomato’s Gold program remains unacceptable in its current form.

Following this, Zomato also revised its Gold offerings to restrict discounts given to diners.

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