The concept of ‘cloud kitchen’ has been gathering momentum for some time now.
India has different types of food consumers:
- Those who love to go out to eat
- Those who want to order take-out and eat from the comfort of their homes. They further fall into 2 categories:
* Those who like to order from well-known restaurants (eg. McDonald’s)
* Those who want to try out new types of cuisines from small-time eateries. And the eateries that cater to these food consumers are either:
§ Well-established dine-in eateries or food courts
§ Or Cloud Kitchens
The hospitality industry has taken a massive hit during these unprecedented times of pandemic. Within the hospitality industry, a well-established restaurant or eatery still have the resources to bounce back with little or no impact. But the same can’t be said for the Cloud Kitchens which work on an operational break-even model. This blog focuses on these very budding Cloud Kitchens. We will try to understand what can be their way forward now and post COVID-19.
Before we deep dive lets understand what a Cloud Kitchen is:
Cloud kitchen is a phenomenon in which a small food outlet or group of food brands share kitchen space under one roof without the options for dine-in. You can only take away your food order or you get it delivered by ordering through aggregator apps like Swiggy, Zomato etc. So in a broader sense, it is a delivery-only eatery.
While there are a lot of benefits to run a cloud kitchen, it also comes with its fair amount of challenges:
- Streamlined order process as a minimum to no customizations of orders
- Staff requirement is pretty less when compared to a full-fledged restaurant
- Real Estate requirements are low
- Low operational costs
- Low to minimum marketing cost as it is done through the aggregator
- Easy expansion possibilities in cuisine and customer outreach
- No personal touch to build on customer relationships
- Limited audience, only tech-savvy customers to reach out to
- Limited brand presence as compared to traditional outlets
- Low margin – High volume model
- Difficult to maintain trust
Did you ever realize – why does Dominos has a see-through cooking area in most of their dine outs? Well, the answer to that is pretty simple; transparency! Why transparency? Why not, if someone is coming to you to eat the food you prepare and offer, then you might as well as build their trust from day-1. Haven’t we always been inquisitive to find out who cooks and prepares our takeaway order?
Cloud kitchens, however, don’t have this privilege of customers coming to their outlets to see their preparation and cooking. Thus they end up losing customer loyalty to branded restaurants and food outlets for the lack of trust & transparency that could never be established.
During this COVID-19 crisis and even after that, the food industry will have to rethink their strategy to get their customer patronage back. This can happen only when TRUST, which is the key element to build a Renewed Society is given due priority.
How can these cloud kitchens build the trust of their apprehensive customer-base? Like the saying goes – ‘devil lies in the details’.
- Social Media presence: As the first step, they need to establish their social media presence via. Website, Facebook page, Instagram, YouTube channel, Pinterest etc. Pick 2 or 3 from these channels and go viral…
- Social media will play a very big role: All the social media accounts should be constantly flooded with preventive measures that are being taken to avoid any spread of the pandemic. Posting pictures or videos of cleanliness routine being followed, social distancing norm being adhered to, applying a hygienic mode of food preparation, etc. will help win over the customers’ trust
- Influencers’ reviews: Trying to get food-industry-influencers to talk about their food and their brand will also help in winning the trust of the customers
- Transparency via live video feeds: Nowadays with the way technology has advanced and become cheaper, one can also contemplate getting cameras installed in the kitchen and transmit continuous live feed on the YouTube channel or Video-on-Demand applications
- Follow all the norms prescribed to avoid COVID-19 spread: Maintain social distancing, wearing masks and gloves at any point of time and maintain cleanliness in and around the kitchen and cooking area. Get themselves audited with correct agencies and keep the certificates handy and displayed on their Social Media pages
- Packaging: This is another big concern from customers’ point of view, as, if the food is not well packaged it can get contaminated on its way to the customer’s homes
- Create a winning combination: To become profitable and ensure faster order fulfilment, cloud kitchens should prune their menu and focus on the top 5-6 top dishes from their pre-pandemic times. This will lead to –
* Lesser staff being utilized and social distancing being maintained
* Faster turn-around time
* Increased order fulfilment
* As the situation gets back to normal additional menu items can be added, until the kitchen reaches its former capacity
There will always be food lovers and there will always be good eateries and great eateries to cater to them. I hope that some of these suggestions given above will help the cloud kitchen owners attract many more food lovers and become better.