In an interaction with The Restaurant India, Satish ChamyVelumani shares eureka moment that made him to think of an automated restaurant that serves food in 90 seconds.
How did the concept of automated restaurant click your mind? How much time did it take to incorporate the idea?
Since my childhood days, I love travelling by trains. One of the two biggest issues that we face while travelling by trains is the lack of availability of food from trusted sources. So, I thought about how wonderful it would be for us to get off the train when it stops at a platform, go to a machine, press a button and get fresh and hot food items from locally trusted sources. So we built on this idea over the last three years and developed Foodbox. From where did you receive funding?
Funding for the initial development and proof of concept was provided by friends, family and a venture capitalist.
How does the 90-second serving work?
We achieve the 90-second delivery through supply chain innovation and technological enablement. Foodbox works with multiple restaurants within the city and retails through fully automated restaurants. All food items are made and packed by the restaurants. Our supply chain picks the foods that are packed just ahead of meal times. The truck brings in the food and fills the dispensers by a man at the Foodbox outlet. At the outlets, customers can order food out of the touch screen, and the fully automated dispenser delivers the food to the customers in 90 seconds.
We have heard that you are looking for private equity (PE) investment for your venture. What is your plan to take your business to the next level?
We are planning to expand our services to other locations within the city and also to cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad and possibly Cochin in the coming years. This will require a lot of capital, and that’s why, we are in the process of approaching PE firms.
What is the process of ordering food, and how is the payment done at Foodbox?
The ordering is done through self service or assisted ordering kiosks. Each kiosk has a touch screen display (that displays the menu with available quantities) and a payment device. The customers get to choose the food item and pay at the ordering kiosk itself. Foodbox accepts credit card/debit card or cash (through cash card).
How many restaurants are you working with presently? What types of cuisines you offer through Foodbox?
Currently, we have partnered with six different restaurants. We serve South Indian vegetarian, non-veg biryani, chettinadu style veg and non-veg, Andhra style veg and non-veg, Punjabi style veg and non-veg and Chinese.
How does automated food dispenser work at Foodbox?
At Foodbox, when a customer walks in, he/she will be able to view all foods/cuisines offered by Foodbox in the screen. They can select their choice or the selection through the touch screen kiosks kept at each of the outlet. From the time the food was ordered, the automated food dispensers’ act as the delivery counter regardless of the type of food ordered, the automated dispenser will deliver the food hot in 90 seconds.
What is your strategy to get a strong hold of the Indian food market?
We want to collaborate with strong local players in each location. By doing this, Foodbox will have a unique opportunity of setting up a national chain using local food.
Who are your target customers for the first automated restaurant in India?
The product is designed for people who are on the move (travellers, office workers, students etc). The price is very feasible to attract customers from all economic groups.
How do you keep the food fresh?
The food is kept fresh by an intelligently done packaging using the ‘Hermetic Seal’. It keeps the meal boxes airtight, keeping it fresh. At the same time, the dispenser has the capacity to handle 5 degree centigrade of climate. We accordingly keep the climate control inside the dispenser, and thus, the food is maintained very fresh until the time it is dispensed.
Are you planning to enter the Delhi-NCR region?
We are planning to take the concept to Bangalore in the latter half of 2014. We have received a lot of calls for starting this up in the Delhi-NCR region too. So, we are planning to come to the Delhi-NCR region in the next couple of years.