Reliance Industries’ sudden decision to shut down Delight, its five-year old non-vegetarian retail format, was triggered by pressure from stakeholders, including consumers, some small shareholders of RIL, and animal rights activists, who were particularly opposed to its yet-to-be launched chicken quick service restaurant business.
Two weeks ago, Reliance Retail issued termination notices to around 50 mid and lower managerial- level employees associated with Delight stores, and a question mark exists over the future of the 150 store workers who manned its around 100 outlets. A Reliance spokesperson said that a completely dedicated and fully segregated supply chain was maintained for Delight in order to cater to the distinct preferences and ideologies of different customers. “Despite this sensitive balance of availability and convenience, it was felt that certain sections of customers were still hesitant to shop at our other stores. Reliance Retail has therefore decided to focus on vegetarian offerings only, within its retail portfolio,” the spokesperson added.
A former Reliance Retail executive said some small shareholders were also opposed to the company selling non-veg items at its stores.
Last year Reliance Retail has entered into a back-end joint venture with 2 Sisters Food Group (2SFG), a UK-based meat-processing company, to introduce chilled and frozen foods at its food & grocery outlets. However, Reliance has now clarified that they have not tied up with any foreign partner for quick-service restaurant and non-veg processing business.
“There have been some misconceptions among various stakeholders about a possible joint venture with a foreign partner for establishing quick-service restaurants and non-veg processing business,” said Reliance in a statement.
Animal welfare organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India had also written to chairman Mukesh Ambani on October 27 requesting him to ‘immediately reconsider’ setting up a chicken meat restaurant chain in India. However, RIL reverted that they haven't tied up with a foreign partner for chicken restaurant business. “We also confirm that we are neither planning nor desirous of pursuing setting up of plants to process chicken,” RIL official said in its mail.
While Reliance had, a few years ago, envisaged opening over 1,000 Delight stores, the expansion, so far, has been slow. With 100 Delight stores, the company posted just Rs.63 crore in sales and a net loss of Rs.2 crore during FY13.