Mumbai: Cheese-less toast, cutlets sans chicken on Deccan Queen leaves commuters irate
Munnabhai's Swami joins mounting chorus of commuter complaints against food quality since a new caterer took over iconic train in November 2017
On Monday morning, actor Khurshed J Lawyer, popularly known as Swami from Munnabhai MBBS, grumbled on Twitter about the cheese and chicken-less grub being served in the iconic dining car of the Mumbai-Pune Deccan Queen.
His tweet echoed what other regulars of the train have been complaining about for months - a steady dip in the quality of food served in the car since the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) brought on board a new catering contractor last November.
Deccan Queen's famous dining car, the only one on a CR train, can serve 32 passengers and offers affordable vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. And most commuters have not been able to digest this shift. "The complaints have been persistent since the new contractor appointed by IRCTC took over in November. It's not that the food is worse, but it seems like they are not able to match the earlier catering standards," Lawyer told mid-day.
IRCTC brought in a new caterer for the dining car in November 2017
He'd tweeted on Monday about eating cheese toast that barely had any cheese and chicken cutlet from which the 'chicken appears to have flown'. The only edible thing he had was the omelette, which had an abundant amount of onions. "Even Merwan's patties priced at Rs 12 and Rs 15 offer loads of chicken," he joked.
Lawyer then pointed out another serious problem in the car - inadequate wait staff. "There's just one waiter serving so many tables, and the wait keeps getting longer and longer. The tea I ordered came after 45 minutes - as coffee. There's surely scope for improvement," said Lawyer.
Khurshed J Lawyer
Lawyer is among many commuters who feel the same way. Harsha Shah, chairperson of the Pune-Mumbai passenger association, who has been associated with the Deccan Queen for over a decade now, said there have been complaints about the quality of food from the time the change came into place with the temporary contractor.
"One thing I've seen is that the rates of the items seem to be different in the morning and evening. Many have approached me with complaints, and I have asked them to lodge formal complaints," she said.
Apart from the quality, several items that were on the previous menu seem to be missing too, and those that are available don't taste the same. Some of the popular items on the earlier menu were baked beans with buttered bread, cheese toast sandwich, cheese omelette, pomfret bread with potato chips, and chicken cutlet, served in customised crockery.
Lost its charm
Ambernath resident Akash Karnani, who has been a regular commuter for several years, says the food is causing a dip in the footfall as well, "Deccan Queen is the most loved train for Mumbai's office crowd. But since the caterers changed, the footfall has dropped. The reason behind this is the poor tasting and low-standard food served by the new contractor. There have been instances when travellers are left with fewer food choices than those shown on the menu."
"Even the tea served now feels like it is missing the love that was added by the previous catering staff. I recently tried the cheese omelette, which was surprisingly low on cheese. Even the cheese toasts are full of oil and don't appeal to us anymore. It feels like CR's most iconic train has lost its charm with its food," he added.
Despite complaints from regular commuters, IRCTC vehemently denies their claims. Arvind Malkhede, IRCTC's group general manager (western region), said "We're trying to streamline the processes and we'll never allow any compromise on the quality of food. Attention is paid to all kinds of complaints on food and catering."
Pinakin Morawala, IRCTC spokesperson said, "We have taken up the complaints. We do not compromise on quality and quantity of food. As far as the cheese toast is concerned, cheese can't be seen when it is mixed with batter and fried. Chicken is finely shredded and mixed with masala while preparing the cutlet. However, will try to incorporate more of cheese and chicken. Omelette can be ordered by passengers without chilli, onion, etc. Regarding service staff in dining car, the peak hours have full occupancy in coaches as well as dining car. However, all efforts will be made to involve more staff as and when required.
"We would like to reiterate that a majority of our passengers have appreciated, in writing, the services and quality of food served by IRCTC on Deccan Queen."
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