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The future of street food in India could be in-car dining

Kerala's tourism minister announced the launch of in-car dining facility for state-run eateries

In-car dining could save street food vendors. (Prachi Palwe, Unsplash)
In-car dining could save street food vendors. (Prachi Palwe, Unsplash)

Dining out has seen several iterations in the pandemic that adhere to social distancing protocols. Restaurants introduced enclosures, known as dining pods, and placed life-sized soft toys on empty seats to indicate a ‘safe distance’. Malls launched drive-throughs for food pick-ups, while standalone restaurants like Qualia and Masque in Mumbai turned to curbside dining, where fuss-free food could be served in cars.

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In-car, or curbside, dining is not just limited to a megapolis like Mumbai, Delhi or Bengaluru. Smaller cities such as Ahmedabad and Lucknow have caught on too. A week ago, there was a Hindustan Times story on in-car dining in Lucknow. “After the relaxation of partial corona curfew in the city on weekdays, the fastest trend to bounce back was the street food outing,” it reported. People queued up outside their favourite street food joints and were served in their cars in disposable takeaway packages.

State governments seem to be taking note of this pandemic-induced innovation. Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) has announced the launch of in-car dining facility, ANI reported on Sunday. KTDC's Aahaar Restaurants will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks to customers in their vehicles.

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P.A. Mohamed Riyas, the tourism minister of Kerala, said: “The scheme is being implemented considering public safety hazards. We are expecting that the initiative will help the tourism industry to pick up after the second wave of the pandemic.” He announced the renovation of KTDC hotel chains, under the project 'Mission Facelift’. Further, he said that the ministry has plans to launch floating restaurants in selected destinations across the state to boost tourism.

Although independent restaurants in cities have been offering in-car dining services through the pandemic, this might be a first: the government stepping in to support state-run eateries. Street food is not only defined by ingredients, flavours and prices, but it is also linked to food laws laid down by state governments. A policy change indicating state support could lift the spirits of street food vendors.

Also read | Did the pandemic kill the 'dhaba'?

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