On 16 February, Zomato sent an email to the restaurants listed on its platform. It concerned changes in its order cancellation policy and came out of the blue—unsolicited and unilateral. 

The revised policy—which will go into effect on 24 February 2020—caps compensation for restaurants in the event of order cancellations by customers based on various conditions. Conditions such as whether the order is already marked as ready for pick-up or how much of the estimated delivery time has passed.  

According to a copy of the email accessed by The Ken, if the order isn’t marked ‘ready’ at the time of cancellation, Zomato will only compensate 40% of the order value. If already marked as prepared, the restaurant gets a full refund. The same rate of compensation applies if 80% of the estimated delivery time has not elapsed. Beyond this, a restaurant is eligible for full compensation. 

For restaurants, it was yet more salt in the wound; the latest salvo in a six-month-long battle they’d fought against restaurant aggregator platforms. Besides Zomato, restaurants are also up against Swiggy, Zomato’s biggest rival, reservation platforms EazyDiner and Dineout, as well as hyperlocal deal aggregators Nearbuy and magicpin. 

The biggest bone of contention for restaurants was the aggressive discounts facilitated and pushed by these companies. The simmering anger bubbled over in mid-August 2019, with restaurants logging out of Zomato’s subscription product—Gold. Zomato Gold offered members buy-one-get-one on food and buy-two-get-two on drinks at partner restaurants. The programme, as restaurant partners soon found out, was hurting their business. It drew bargain hunters rather than building loyalty and ate into margins. 

While Zomato was the primary focus of the campaign—dubbed #Logout—its discount-focused peers soon joined it in the doghouse. (We wrote about this in August) Dineout, which was in the midst of its Great Indian Restaurant Festival (GIRF)—a month-long discount-driven dine-in promotion—also saw restaurants withdrawing. 

Five days into the #Logout campaign, as the number of protesting restaurants crossed 2,200, Zomato made 10 changes to the Gold program. These included limiting Gold users to one unlock per day, and allowing a maximum of two unlocks per table. These concessions walked the delicate balance of pacifying restaurants without angering users. 

At the time, it seemed like the tide was turning. The food tech Goliaths were brought to the negotiating table by armies of Davids, all rallying behind a common banner. And their numbers gave them confidence. Restaurants weren’t interested in small white flags. Their agitation came down to six major battles that had the potential to change the landscape of the industry. 

Six months later, little has changed. Save for in-principle agreements, no big changes have been implemented, according to two members of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI).


Abinaya Vijayaraghavan

Abinaya is a Bengaluru-based writer, covering the sprawling and exciting world of Indian e-commerce. When she is not trying to understand alpha sellers and complex supply chains, she enjoys travelling and playing badminton. Abinaya was previously a reporter at Reuters.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at support@the-ken.com detailing the error or queries.