Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation is subsidized by the Indian railways, and has come into existence to provide for the catering needs of rail travelers. IRCTC (Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation) is a successful effort on part of the Ministry of Railways to professionalize the services available.
IRCTC has many objectives, from being customers oriented and sensitive to required changes; to quality control. IRCTC (Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation) is required to be aware of the environment and heritage of the travel, and enhance the same via innovative marketing. IRCTC (Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation) is expected to maximize the efficiency of the services provided through public - private partnerships.
There are plans underway to develop multi-cuisine plazas at various locations throughout the country. 50 plazas have been sanctioned for completion at present. These food plazas are expected to have a comfortable, contemporary ambiance and 24 hour service. They will serve good quality, competitively priced food.
The Indian Railways Catering and Tourism package its own brand of drinking water called Rail Neer. It has two state-of-the-art purifying and bottling plants at Nangloi in Delhi and Danapur in Bihar.
Indian Railways Catering services are provided in all passenger trains in India. All the major meals are served according to orders taken. The chief server makes a round of the train beforehand, and takes orders, and the meals are delivered accordingly. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals are served differently, keeping in mind the religious significance that gets attached to food in India.
There is no separate dining car in a vast majority of the trains. Meals are served in-seat instead. Some high-end trains including the tourist trains have attendant service. The food is prepared in the Pantry Van. Partially processed food is taken on board, and the main cooking process is done en-route. Thus, it is possible to provide regular hot meals.
Besides meals, a variety of snacks (largely vegetarian) are peddled at intervals by the servers. Vendors selling packaged food articles like biscuits, packaged savories like chips and namkeen, water, and confectionery also make rounds of the train occasionally. Vendors selling hot and cold drinks also move through the train at intervals.
Alongside IRCTC, a variety of local and chain caterers operate at railway stations. The Indian Railways gathers revenue from these contracts. These caterers (some belonging to the corporate world) range from running a stall which serves a variety of hot and cold food products, including packaged food and drink; to hawkers that enter trains and ply their goods while the train is halted at a station. Often, these operators add local flavors to the meals of travelers. Many corporate houses run stalls in at least the metropolitan areas.
The Indian Railways has time and again introduced variations in it's meals and service.
Example: A plate of sambhar and rice served with papad and pickle costs only NR 20, while a plate of chicken biriyani costs only INR 40.
Besides on the high end and Indian tourist trains, the quality of food and service is average, with the focus being on serving reasonably tasty, filling and cost effective dishes.
The high end travelers on the other hand demand better quality, which is supplied through more personalized service and customized menus. There are plans of introducing limited menus of 5-star restaurants on tourist trains. The higher the class of accommodation, the better is the service.
Example: While the passengers in the IIAC accommodation get only packaged fruit juice with breakfast, the passengers traveling in IAC get the juice as well as a serving of fresh fruit.
On board the Express trains that run for a long period there are pre-arranged menus. Each meal is a full, multi-option one, with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.
Example: Dinner consists of a serving of soup along with a bread product and butter, rice and gravy dish, a curry, a variety of roti, a sweet, and side dishes like papad and pickle.