Written by Partha Mansukhani
COMING AS a Diwali gift to commuters, a pizza vending machine parked at the Mumbai Central station entrance has drawn much attention.
An initiative by the Indian Railway Catering Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), officials said the machine, a first in the Railways, helps serve food in a “mechanised” way. Introduced on a pilot basis on November 7, it has found popularity with long-distance commuters taking trains late in the evening.
Parked in the cafeteria of the station, a commuter receives a token in exchange for money, which is then put inside the vending machine for receiving the pizza. The options are limited to vegetarian and are priced between Rs 180 to Rs 260 for a 8-slice, 10.5-inch pizza. The vending machine operates from 7 am till 11 pm all week.
Store manager Abdul Hanif, from Yes Pizza, which operates the machine, said: “The pizza is made in three parts here. First, dough is prepared from the flour and sauce is added to the pizza base. Then, the base is transferred to another area where cheese and toppings are added. Finally, the pizza gets placed inside an oven where it is baked at 380 degrees Celsius for two minutes. “ The entire process, right from inserting a token till the pizza gets delivered takes five minutes.
“Since we started, we have sold close to 40 to 45 pizzas on a daily basis, with maximum sales recorded between 7 pm to 9.30 pm,” he added. In the event of rush during peak hours, passengers can get pizzas delivered to their coach too.
Commuters can also choose between eating fries (priced between Rs 60 to Rs 70) and seasonal fruit juices (Rs 50) from other vending machines placed alongside the pizza machine.
While Railways authorities have claimed this to be a service requiring “minimum human intervention”, the machine managers are required to cut the baked pizza in slices and package them before serving.
Banking professional Giriraj Chauhan, who often takes a Mumbai Rajdhani Express to Delhi, said: “I am impressed with the idea of a vending machine but if it requires me to stand in a queue for taking a token or wait till they cut the slices for me, it is a waste. I might as well visit any food outlet at the station.”
IRCTC spokesperson Pinakin Morawalla said, “As this is the first initiative of IRCTC, we will gauge its popularity and see where else it can be installed. It has received a decent response till now.” In time, more vending machines may be set up to serve tea, coffee, ice-cream and popcorn.