They say, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and what better time than now, to innovate and adapt. The hype all started when a video of Qatar-based blogger foodieshamsi went viral showing a table being set up inside the car to enable them to enjoy their meal safely. The server set up a long wooden plank to substitute as a table from the driver side window to the passenger side and placed the food on it. The restaurant in the video was identified as Dosa Street at Ain Khalid Souq and many dignitaries in India including Harsh Goenka tweeted it giving seeds for a trend to pick up.
Later, this month, Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) launched a facility that serves travellers food inside their vehicles, thus allaying health risks while eating in public spaces amid Covid-19. Breakfast, lunch and dinner besides snacks, will be served under ‘In-Car Dining’, adhering to Covid-19 protocols. To begin with, select KTDC restaurants have started carrying out the scheme.
“In-Car Dining will help customers remain in their parked vehicles, to where orders placed at KTDC’s Aahaar Restaurants will reach. In the process, ‘In-Car Dining’ seeks to provide our customers with a new experience,” according to Kerala Tourism Minister P A Mohamed Riyas. Kaasa is just one of the restaurants in Kochi that has started in-car dining.
Kaasa in Kerala has designed an entire ceremony around it – offering finger bowls and a temporary car fumigator that would prevent the smell of food lingering in the car. The food is served on specially designed elongated trays that fit in the car in such a way that would allow passengers to roll up the windows and switch on the AC. “They can vibe to the music of their choice as they dig into their favourite meal,” said Sharon Gafoor, owner of Kaasa Kitchen.
Not a new concept for India
However, In-car dining is not a new concept for India and many restaurants have been serving this concept for ages. As Chef Harsh Shodhan, Founder of Gourmet on the Go & Hola Hummmus mentioned, “In-Car Dining was very popular in the 80s especially at fast food places like Shiv Sagar, Bhawans Chowpatty, Bachelors etc. but as time limits and traffic laws became stricter Car Dine-In became a rare experience. But with the pandemic, a lot of restaurants and even fine dining places are considering and have even started InCar Dining that can be fun, safe and comfortable but be careful of the roaches n bugs later!!!”
In Delhi, places like ‘Rajinder da dhaba’ in SDA, ‘Aapki ki khaatir’ in Hauz Khas, and ‘Colonel Kababz’ in the Defence colony are some already existing go-to places that are famous for in-car dining.
With the lifting of restrictions on movement and reopening of cafes and restaurants, people from across the city are stepping out after surviving months without socialising. But safety being a prerequisite now, it seems the only place they trust after their homes.
Restaurants across the country adopting this new format
Not just in Kerala, but slowly and steadily restaurants and cafe joints across the country have started taking this trend seriously. Seeing the trend, restaurants and cafes are encouraging patrons to order in their cars. “We have started a concept called Straight Drive. We have our very own drive-through, where one can sit in the car and enjoy the delicacies from our kitchen. The menu is simple and the whole experience is designed to be contactless,” said Rajit Bhutoria, director of a city club in Mumbai.
Not just in the second wave, last year too few restaurants and cafes in Ahmedabad and Jaipur were seen serving their food only and exclusively to people in their cars. “In our addition to the regular services, this one is what people have been liking the most. Also, even people feel more comfortable and safer as they do not have to worry about social distancing. During weekends, we have around 15 to 20 customers, ordering food inside the car.” Shaukat Panwar, owner, Café Lazy Mojo in Jaipur commented.
Similarly, Kamal Nagpal who owns a boutique cafe in Ahmedabad started out car dine-in because they realised that many of their customers are not comfortable dining in the cafe. “We offer takeaways, home deliveries and have also started dining in, but there are many patrons who prefer enjoying their meal in the car,” he further commented.
Not all fit for the change
While restaurateurs agree that in-car dining has its own challenges, it has been a great way to tide over the tough phase, keeping jobs and livelihoods. Zaatar in Kochi, which serves typically Arabian fare, tweaked its menu to suit the car-dining experience.
Amid all, the availability of parking space has been a huge factor in deciding the trend, said most of the restaurateurs. Most of the places offering in-car dining has the provision to park at least 10 to 15 cars at a time.
Restaurants have been quick to adapt to the changing requirements. Home deliveries and takeaways have already become the new norm. Now comes the revival of in-car dining concept!