Indian Railways is experimenting with the introduction of pre-cooked meals like MTR's upma, ITC's shahi paneer on premium trains, alongside the dal, chapatti and rice, served by caterers.
This will give the passenger on the longer routes an option to the current menu that is restricted to the food served by the caterers.
Premium trains are run on high-demand routes and have dynamic fares, that are two to three times higher than the Rajadhani's. Tickets for such trains can only be booked online and the rates are inclusive of food.
Indian Railways now wants to serve better food on these trains, and brand them as a special category, Business Line quoted Devi Prasad Pande, member-traffic, Railway Board, as saying.
In order to test passenger preferences, the Railways served food provided by caterers as well as pre-cooked meals on select premium trains, including those on the Secunderabad-Delhi, Chennai-Delhi, and Bangalore-Delhi routes.
As per the feedback received from over 4,500 passengers, about 80 per cent preferred pre-cooked meals, said Pande.
The Railways, he said, would try to add regional cuisine, such as upma, idli, sambhar in trains from the South, and dal and shahi paneer in those from the North.
The Railways would fix the rates for the pre-cooked food. For non-vegetarian packs, however, the rates could be higher.
The move will benefit companies like ITC, MTR, Godrej Tyson Foods, McCain, Kohinoor, Ushodaya Enterprises, Vadilal, Haldirams and Venky's who serve the pre-cooked foods market.
For the Railways, premium trains are the most profitable since they provide 21 per cent higher income than other passenger trains, and have 80 per cent occupancy levels throughout the year.