Covid-19 pandemic has changed the whole gamut of restaurant and food service business, making it the worst affected segment not just in India but across globe. According to industry sources, almost 40 per cent of the restaurants were permanently closed or were forced to shut shops because of the other operational and rental costs that they were unable to pay because of the losses. And, during this time what comes as rescuer for the already floating sector was the delivery and dark kitchen model that at least gave them a reason to survive and beat all the losses.
Like every year, Restaurant India has been organizing conferences and webinars based on the latest trends and researches. Restaurant India organized its 2nd edition of the Dark Kitchen and Delivery Summit, virtually that witnessed great footfall from the restaurant as well as food service professionals, chefs and food-tech fraternity. Food delivery giants, dark kitchen players, restaurants that transformed their business into delivery model, tech-solution providers and food ingredient and raw material suppliers came together at the event held on 20th May at multiple virtual platforms.
Keeping in mind the theme of The Dark Kitchen and Delivery summit was ‘building leadership in delivery and dark-kitchen space’, where experts shared their insights on how to create a dark-kitchen business concept and build a delivery business to scale when everything other than delivery is not operational due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Building a dark-kitchen business
The Food Service Industry has to think omni-channel and need to think beyond how technology is disrupting their industry to how technology can improve the guest experience. Cloud-kitchens have disrupted the food industry the same way Netflix did for home entertainment or what Uber did to the traditional taxi industry.
“The beauty of today’s food delivery business is the ecosystem that is far more evolved. You have aggregators who is doing the last mile, infrastructure players like us that is focused on building the state of the art kitchen, how do you reduce the cost of infrastructure, how do you standardize a lot of things within the kitchens so that the brand can focus on building the quality product. Then, you have multiple enablers around in terms of supply chain, packaging specialist, tech-specialists etc,” said Joseph Cherian, India Head, Kitchen Plus.
Delivery is the next global fad
There’s no denying that brand like Domino’s that built a global delivery ecosystem was always a tech-focused company and not a dine-in kind of a venture. Founded in early 1960s, it focused on delivery rather than being at the forefront. And, today it could be termed as one of the top delivery company globally.
“I believe Domino’s as inventor of dark kitchens. The company was founded in 1960s with core focus on delivering food at home, till 1990s. The concept was actually to be in back allies and not be very visible and been ever to cover the delivery area, added Vishal Kapur, COO, Alamar Foods that operate Domino’s in MENA region by adding that post 1990s, the focus of the business became delivery and take away and that’s when we started building more stores that was visble. “ I think now, since 2020 with the offset of covid, the focus is back on the delivery business. And, I think it’s going to stay and at Domino’s we believe that we were built for delivery,” he pointed.
It’s all about customization
“The consumption pattern has changed quite a bit post the pandemic where people were looking at some entertainment at home and entertainment at home means consuming food which is not necessarily healthy but is helping customers stay really sane,” shared Ankit Nagori of Eatfit that continues to sell the healthy food other than the healthier variant of pizza, subway sandwich etc. Eatfit majorly focused on corporate and office clients who were not willing to eat cafeteria food but preferred and healthier, homely style food. But with lockdown, when office and other corporate business had to shut shops, Eatfit entered into the cloud-kitchen space catering to a bigger audience.
Commenting on the same, Kent Wu, COO, Taiwan-based JustKitchen that has14 in-house food brands and 3, third party brands including TFIFridays.
“Dark kitchen business is here to stay. The e-commerce revolution that we saw in 2008-2009 for retail. Similarly, we have seen dark kitchen and delivery grew for food in last few years,” added Wu who believed that for delivery foods like pizza, pasta, etc work well in a dark kitchen business. However, their soups are one of the largest selling item on the menu.
The conference was well received by audience as well as sponsors who supported Dark Kitchen and Delivery summit to be a successful event. The event was organized by Restaurant India, Title Partner – ‘Cremica Food Industries Ltd.’, Restaurant Automation Partner, UrbanPiper, Session Partner- Knox.
“We look forward to the Dark Kitchen summit every year, but the virtual format made us a little skeptical. However, it turned out to be a fairly decent event with ample opportunity to connect with participants and talk about the brand. Not to mention, panel discussions were as great as they are at Dark Kitchen Summit,’ concluded Eshwar K Vikas, Co-Founder & CEO, Mukunda Foods.