Over the past decade, the disposable income of the Indian population has been steadily increasing, a large part of which is spent on dining and travel. This has contributed to the growth of the restaurant and QSR segments. Additionally, with 62% of the youth vacationing for up to 5 times a year,the tourism industry is also booming. The combined growth of the two industries has led to the development of the travel food retail sector through adoption of innovative technology, and the entry of food chain services, especially at airports, where the two worlds meet.
Airport retail come as a boon for travellers waiting due to layovers or flight delays. This increase in footfall has made airports a magnet for F&B outlets as this novel consumer base is looking for superior quality food and services, making the existence of such reputable food chains at airports a necessity. Quality dining opportunities for jetsetters were once scarce and compelled travellers to rely on home-cooked meals or in-flight meal options. Today, the industry has evolved to the point where airports have transformed into a food connoisseur’s haven. Renowned fast food chains like Dominos, KFC, Krispy Kreme and more, have established outlets at airports in metros like Mumbai and New Delhi.
A growing trend in the F&B industry is the popularity of food delivery apps. Restaurants and cafés are now getting listed on leading apps like Swiggy or UberEats, which have increased their business by a huge margin through the provision of a new avenue for customers. The trend has permeated into the travel retail industry, with apps like Food@Gate gaining popularity amongst travellers. The app aggregates menus from all the food outlets at the airport, and serves fresh and hot food to the customer at his/her seat. This smart use of technology has led customers to avail maximum utility, and a comfortable experience at airports. The advent of technology has also brought with it, new ways to cater to customers at airports to provide a unique and novel experience, especially through the integration of Robotics. In January 2019, travellers passing through the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi were introduced to Mitri, a friendly robot created to give customers a one-of-a-kind engaging experience. Mitri not only greets incoming customers, but also offers them food recommendations to suit their varied preferences.
Travel and food are no more about going to a new place and tasting something new or different; it is about being able to engage all the senses, and experience something novel. This new definition has compelled airports to get creative with their offerings and services, and provide something that is both, utilitarian and luxurious. Technologies like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and AI are quickly becoming part of the burgeoning‘ customised’ experience. High-end facilities like lounges, robots, and food delivery apps are certainly leading the industry trends currently, and constantly getting updated. As the Travel Retail industry is only expected to flourish, with constant innovation in finding new touch points to reach out to the customers, its future lies in the creation of new and diverse ideas.