Sunday, May 01, 2005

Comesum, Indian railways

Comesum is the new face of Indias railway restaurant. They are air conditioned food courts and can be seen among other places at prime rail estate in Bangalore and Pune. Unlike the waiting rooms or canteens of the Raj, these are, atleast on paper, airconditioned and have an inviting decor. Their prices match restaurant prices outside, unlike the older railway canteens which still serve food a lot cheaper.

Before we go further on this topic, a word on the railway canteens. Railway canteens follow a strict pricing schedule and most dont charge for anything above the MRP (Maximum Retail price). They charge a buck or two more for cold water, but otherwise, they are cheaper than whatever is available outside. Quality can vary from good to diluted, but since the prices are lesser, nobody complains. Thus a curry may be diluted, as would the milk and so on.

But with prices charged the way Comesum does, one does not expect the same. The Pav Bhaji (a curry of many vegetables) I had was mostly ground cabbage held together by some red gravy that looked more thickener than anything else and a few stray pieces of peas and potato. About the bhatura, the less said the better. The orange juice was mostly water with an orange flavour (since when did nature produce tasteless watery oranges?). What did I gain in Comesum Bangalore by paying 100% more than a regular canteen except sit in fancy chairs ( and the AC wasnt working either)? I am not sure if the story at other Comesums is the same, it may well be different. How to bring catering at these places upto a certain standard and maintain them? The answer is perhaps in competition, as usual.

The trick for railways is perhaps to give out catering on some trains and stations to groups who are brand conscious (like McD and PizzaHut or Haldirams) and auction out the rest to the usual criteria. Competition should do the rest. Of course, the railways in India have more serious problems to worry about than the quality of food served.


vivid said...

I agree that one thing common to all comesums is bad food, really bad food.The rest of the story is the same for the pune comesum. the only thing theyve got going for them is the fact that theyre the only eatery of any kind allowed to stay open all night long in the whole of pune. Which is why i disagree with the idea of a branded restaurant. i shouldnt have to shell out astronomical amounts(cosidering the markups in most branded establishments) just to satiate my midnight munchies. But then, a little competition wouldnt hurt anybody.BTW did i mention they serve really bad food.

Kuttan said...

You are right railways could make more money by leasing the prime real estates to established resturants who would make good on the quality and service. And railways can concentrate on running the trains on time rather that worrying about the quality and quantity of water in orange juice and milk.

Kevin said...

Food @ Comesum is far from the vision that their founders had. the Bangalore COmesum an AC fitted one, i never realised it.