Swiggy, a food delivery service in India, has shifted the conversation away from speed and price - and making it about our relationships with foods – and what these food relationships can lead to.
Originally published on Forbes.com
Going out for lunch or dinner on a first date is not only a popular choice for many, but there are good reasons why.
Sharing a meal is a social activity that allows two people to get to know each other in a more relaxed and comfortable setting – it can break the ice on that awkward first date and create a more intimate atmosphere than say going to a movie where each person sits alone quietly in the dark. It can be the foundation for good conversation - as sharing a meal allows for more open-ended conversations to learn about each other’s values, backgrounds, and of course, the foods they like to eat, which can itself tell you a lot.
In recent years, and especially during the pandemic, the way people meet potential romantic partners has changed significantly with the use of digital platforms including online dating services, social media and videoconferencing.
Almost 60 years ago, on December 20, 1965, Chuck Barris introduced us to a whole new way to look at finding that perfect partner; and changed the way we thought about dating and relationships. It was about learning about the other person through their answers to common questions. The Dating Game weekly TV program taught us to forget about relying on your mom or friend on fixing you up or heading to a bar to ‘try your luck’ to meet that special one. It was reading between the lines to discover one’s personality – without seeing them! Listening carefully was the skill required.
The matchmaking was secretive – a guy or girl was on one side of a wall and on the other side were three hopefuls of the opposite sex who were asked questions, and the ‘winner’ would be selected based on their answers. To be transparent, it was also the television show that agents pushed their rising stars to appear on because of the huge amount of viewers.. Farah Fawcett, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Selleck, Sally Field, John Ritter, Lindsey Wagner and dozens more appeared alongside regular folks who wanted their shot at love – and TV stardom. Over the course of the series there were 2,000 dates, and 20 couples actually went on to marry. Even Jay Leno on The Tonight Show offered a parody skit in which a then presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich played the game looking for love.
The next evolution came decades later with the deluge of dating apps: eHarmony, Tinder, Thursday, Match, Bumble, Hinge, OKCupid, Happn and hundreds more that tie people together through a series of photos, bios, likes and dislikes and of course, algorithms to make it all easy.
Then dating found its way back on TV, where reality shows like The Bachelor, Singletown, Catfish, Love Island and others, sensationalized the dating process and looked for nothing more than the ultimate insult, soundbite or cheat.
No one really connected love and food until in August of 2019 we reported on The Lempert Report about a new trend – foodie calls. A trend, that hopefully has totally disappeared, where a person schedules a date with someone they aren’t really interested in just to get a free meal. Not quite matchmaking heaven, nor was it about bonding over a meal. It was just “free food.”
Swiggy’s, one of the leading food delivery services in India, has introduced a new way of thinking about its delivery service that certainly separates it from all the competitors by combining food and love.
For many centuries the culture and religious beliefs in India centered around two people getting together through arranged marriages – there was no concept of dating or what we might call love marriages until the 1970s which today transcends ethnic, community and religious barriers for many.
In November of 2022, Swiggy’s introduced Plate Date on YouTube. The program is very similar to The Dating Game, but the questions are all based on the contestant’s prior food purchases made on the Swiggy food app. Each program is divided into three segments: the first one is called “Order Order” the second is “Let’s Ketchup” and the last is “Plating the Date.” The channel has over 260 thousand subscribers, typically gets over 700 comments on each episode, and is clearly targeted to a young audience. Swiggy was founded in 2014 and operates in over 500 cities in India. In January 2022 Swiggy’s valuation rose to $10.7 billion after Invesco led a $700 million fundraiser.
Today, you must reside in India to participate as a contestant; but frankly, this marketing idea is so good it might force Swiggy to expand in other countries and even here in the United States. Swiggy’s head of brand marketing said in the initial Plate Date announcement that Swiggy and the show is “rooted in an insight that food connects people.” We all know that, but the question is, do their food delivery competitors?
Think of the marketing brilliance to take the concept one step further.
The show is highlighting foods of course, but also names the restaurant where the contestant purchased it from. Smart. Swiggy also designed the show to appeal to Gen Z and millennials. Smarter. This marketing also separates – and elevates – Swiggy from their competitors – Uber Eats, Zomato, Food Panda, Deliveroo and dozens more, by humanizing the whole idea of food delivery. Brilliant.
Swiggy has effectively shifted the delivery conversation away from speed and price - and made it about the relationship with foods – and what these food relationships could lead to. Having common tastes on burger joints or the type of pizza toppings or if someone is choosing healthy or indulgent foods is a powerful message – for dating and building a brand image. We know that Gen Z and Millenials love food, and it represents who they are.
The social distancing and stay at home orders that we have experienced over the past few years have created the feeling of being alone more than ever. We witnessed, as the regulations were lifted, a surge in people wanting to be with others – which created a groundswell at many bars and restaurants that sat empty for many months and were experiencing labor and product shortages and price hikes.
Plate Date is really smart marketing and positioning, and kudos to Swiggy. Will Plate Date be a global success and take over the franchise of the "housewives from wherever?" I doubt it – but if Chuck Barris was still alive, it’s an idea he might embrace.