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This monsoon, it’s raining food from the cloud in Bengaluru

The city has lately witnessed a flurry of cloud kitchens from the biggest names in the F&B space

Every problem has a solution – this phrase fits right with the current food and hospitality industry in Bengaluru.

Rise in popularity of Cloud Kitchens amid Covid-19

While the pandemic crushed small and medium sized eateries to exit, there were a few who changed their course and adjusted their business for survival, in the form of Cloud Kitchens.

Freshmenu and Swiggy are some of the popular names who have successfully leveraged this concept over the years.

Also known as dark or ghost kitchen, it does not require a physical address and is based on the home-delivery model.

Cloud Kitchen – The next big thing?

After the lockdown was eased in Bengaluru, there was a flurry of Cloud Kitchens by existing and popular names in city’s F&B scene as it is convenient for the entrepreneurs on many levels.

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“This concept has multiple benefits including lower investment and costs, operational efficiency and it allows one to expand their market and database substantially,” says Anirudh Kheny, Partner at Plate Project Hospitality LLP, a brand that houses 1Q1 and now That Curry Place.

Anirudh Kheny, Partner at Plate Project Hospitality LLP

Kuncheria Maratt, Founder of Flayvor Co. also voices a similar opinion. He says, “This model allows flexibility for expansion and experimentation.”

Kuncheria Maratt, Founder of Flayvor Co.

He further adds, “The starting investment is not the same as a regular offline kitchen which requires additional real estate, manpower and service cost as well.”

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With no or fewer people stepping out to dine out, 1Q1 Kitchen & Bar, Lounge Hospitality that houses popular eateries like Sanchez and Sriracha in Bengaluru and Uru Brewpark recently introduced their new offerings with cloud concept.

Entry of existing restaurants in the cloud space

That Curry Place from 1Q1 has kept its focus on curries from across the globe. All the dishes are uniquely crafted by their chefs to suit the Indian palate and have created tasteful combinations with an array of accompaniments.

“We had the entire plan ready to launch this delivery-only concept in January,” says Kheny.

However, with the onset of Covid-19, everything came to an unexpected standstill for the group and they were forced to put all the plans on hold.

Lounge Hospitality, part of Embassy Leisure has reinvented themselves during these unprecedented times to launch a series of brands that are user-friendly, delicious and safely delivered to your doorstep.

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These delivery brands are HakkaChow, which will showcase Asian market style meals, while Bangalore Pizza Company will focus on bringing the best pizza slices in the city.

Mad Mex is a twist on Tex-Mex dishes using regional flavours and Garam Masala is a feel-good North Indian cuisine.  

“This is the time to innovate,” says Chef Vikas Seth, Culinary Director at Embassy Leisure when asked the new venture.

Chef Vikas Seth, Culinary Director at Embassy Leisure

He further adds, Today, more than ever, we must incorporate healthy options into our menus. Hence, we have created an indulgent at-home experience, delivered to your doorstep in the most hygienic kitchens.”

Flayvor Co., a collaboration between Uru Brewpark and Maratt saw the launch of four new cloud kitchens.

“My fascination with the concept started with the introduction of Freshmenu in India and grew as I realized its potential in terms of scaling as well as flexibility,” says Maratt.

Handmade by Flayvor Co. is an authentic Italian cuisine made using high-quality ingredients. The second brand is Roohi, a novel kitchen where traditional food meets a modern-day twist in packaging.

The Great Wok is a homely kitchen that brings together culture and cuisine, all wrapped together with love by their lovable mascot, Ho Lee!

The fourth brand by Flayvor Co. is Let’s Get Started, a fun kitchen that believes in delivering a global cuisine focused exclusively on starters, with varying portions sizes suitable for everyone.

Maratt further added, “As Covid-19 approached, we knew that turnover would take a while to return to normalcy so we decided to enter the cloud kitchen space.”

Beginning of a new chapter

While Ginger Tiger and Plus91, both part of JSM Corporation had shut down their outlet’s a couple of years back, now they have chosen to bring them back in the form of a cloud model, due to popularity it enjoyed earlier.

“While we did not expect much demand immediately, it has picked up the pace quickly. Our customers were elated to see us back,” says Akanksha Chaudhary, Assistant Director, Marketing & Sales at JSM Corporation.

The group has lately started focusing on societies or apartments every weekend, where they take all their brands directly to the customers.

Mealbox by Ginger Tiger

With pre-orders, the brand is able to control the quality and customers are happy with the special incentives. It is a win-win for both the parties.

“This has turned out well for the group. We have witnessed 40-50% growth over the last month,” says Chaudhary.

Intending to recreate the charm of Windsor Pub after it closed down recently, the group has now launched ‘Windsor Food Factory’, their initial foray into the cloud space.

With the first kitchen located in Wilson Gardens, the menu concentrates on pub’s favourites like Pandi Fry, Chicken Bafat, and Andhra Chilly Chicken to name a few.

Grilled Prawns at Windsor Food Factory

Rohan Beliappa, Director CC India that owns Windsor Food Factory says, “We plan to open more kitchens across the city as the brand gains traction, and thereafter expand our portfolio to include outdoor catering services and lunches to corporates.”

Rohan Beliappa, Director CC India that owns Windsor Food Factory

Business in Pre vs Post Lockdown

Birani2Home has been in the delivery and takeaway business for a fair period of time.

Talking about the business in the pre-Covid era and after the lockdown restrictions were eased, Kartikeyan Selvaraj, Founder, Owner of B2H says, “The demand is back to what it was before the lockdown.”

Kartikeyan Selvaraj, Founder, Owner of Biryani2Home

It does not come as a surprise what Selvaraj says as biryani has always been one of the most popular food items being delivered at home.

So much is the demand for Biryani that B2H was all set to open multiple cloud and takeaway outlets across Bengaluru and other cities like Chennai and Hyderabad before the lockdown was imposed.

While the plan was put on hold, Selvaraj is still on with his expansion plan and aims to open 10 new outlets, comprising of both cloud and dine-in models in the next 6 months.

Future of the cloud model

While everyone is gung-ho about the concept currently and rightly so, the biggest question is what happens once the situation is back to normal and customers start stepping out to the restaurants.

“This concept is here to stay and the demand will only grow further,” says Chaudhary.

She further adds, “Even before the lockdown, delivery orders have always been very strong in Bengaluru. The success of Swiggy, Zomato and now the entry of Amazon in the food-delivery space is testament to this fact.”

However, Kheny of 1Q1, which has been one of the most popular restaurants in the city, weighs on the dine-in concept in the future and believes that its significance will always be the primary aspect of the industry.

He says, “Once the normalcy returns, the dependency of restaurants on cloud kitchens will reduce.”

“The entire experience of dining out with the service, atmosphere and just enjoying that meal at your favourite restaurant with music in the background cannot be replicated at home,” concludes Kheny.

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