As the world continues to shift towards remote operation, and as everything comes to customers in a pay-as-you-go service model, there’s no reason why restaurants should stay out of this frenzy! Thus enters the concept of Restaurant-as-a-Service.
Gone are the days when food delivery was just limited to pizza. Providing just delivery services, the virtual kitchen solution seized its chance during the pandemic and has now become an indispensable feature of the restaurant world. Since the onset of the lockdown, the conventional restaurant business has been hit hard. Several thriving restaurants faced a diminution – big barriers like paying for the real estate, staff, infrastructure couldn’t recompense for the loss in profits. In the first half of 2020, nearly 90% of restaurants registered with the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) were temporarily shut down.
Pandemic or not, the demand for food can never drop, and the most viable solution was gravitating towards a model that focused on off-premise delivery and the obliteration of direct contact of the restaurant workers with the general public, thereby ensuring safety and hygiene.
Thus these virtual/ghost/dark (as they are not visible to the customers who order from them!) kitchens thrived. With the rise of third-party delivery apps, virtual kitchens have delivery support as well and are left with no bottlenecks to their success. It has been estimated by 2023, the market size of virtual restaurants would grow to about $1 billion, with a double-digit growth rate every year. The concept of virtual kitchen helps make the process of operation leaner. The staff is limited to just the chefs; there is no need for other support staff like waiters and servers. Doing away with the dine-in space and working on just the kitchen area has eliminated expenditure that comes with investing in fancy infrastructure and ambience. Putting together these factors, it is approximated that the cost of setting up a cloud kitchen comes at just one-third of the investment required to set up a restaurant. As they have less to invest in, food from these kitchens is cheaper as well, thereby elevating the popularity of the food from these kitchens among the public.
A cloud kitchen, RoboChef in Chennai, India has taken this process to the next level. This is a fully automated cloud kitchen, where a robot is the chef, which cooks everything right from the scratch! This robot uses a process called software-defined cooking and is fed with the data of close to 800 recipes. It can dish up anything from this database in a jiffy and can rustle up close to 18 types of biriyani!
A lot of top brands are looking to foray into the cloud space as well. Popular fast-food brand Wendy’s has partnered with India’s Rebel Foods to open close to 250 cloud kitchens in India in a new experiment to adapt to the seismic shift towards cloud kitchens.
However, while dining in the comfort of one’s home, while Netflixing and Chilling does sound fun, we can’t bury the fact that people might miss the experience of restaurant dining. Not a lot can be done to overcome this, but maybe a little personalization can help. Certain cloud kitchens have started putting in efforts to enhance the look and feel of the food packages. These efforts range from delivering biriyani in clay pots, to adding in personalized cards wishing the customers a happy meal, to cuisine cards that delineate a short story about the origin of the food.
Indeed, the features of cloud kitchens seem to be tailored to fit the pandemic’s requirements. But cloud kitchens are sure here to stay even after the pandemic. Longer working hours, busier lives, and the narrowing gap between work and life just mean lesser time at the home kitchens. With these cloud kitchens providing healthy and tasty meals, they sure are bound to stay put for time to come.