Consumer is king! This saying has never really held true as it does today. In fact, our data shows that more women are ordering from cloud kitchens, so, in fact, consumer could well be queen.
So what have cloud kitchens done to make this old saying really true?
Firstly, let us go back to 2010, not too long ago. The era of pre-cloud kitchens. A passionate restaurateur, Rahul, who spent two weeks in Japan to understand sushi had returned with a great concept in mind for his restaurant.
The next steps – find the best location (considering he was looking for sushi lovers, it would have to be a high-profile area and hence with high rentals); pay hefty down-payments for the lease; get expensive interior designers; build an attractive restaurant; find and train serving and waiting staff, get a liquor licence, and of course, spend in the kitchen, get a chef, etc.
Now Vishal, who has the same love for sushi and wants to make and sell that, has much less to do in 2018, the era of cloud kitchens. He does not need an expensive location or interiors or liquor to go with his menu. He still has to build a hygienic and nice kitchen, albeit in a much smaller place. He and his chef make the same fabulous sushi, which gets delivered to his customers pretty easily.
So this is what the cloud kitchen has done for the consumer:
• Spoilt her for choice: She can order Sushi, Vietnamese noodle soups, Moroccan chicken and Bengali cuisine. All these offerings are available because of a lower capex and fewer hassles that Vishal has to put up with. Rahul found it very tough to open the second, while Vishal can open five or even eight kitchens with the same money
• Gave utmost convenience: The marriage between food aggregators and cloud kitchens resulted in ease of ordering and getting meals delivered in most reliable fashion. The consumer can now order the sushi, chicken tikka, four-cheese pizza and ice cream sundae from four different restaurants, while relaxing at home. Vishal has to only list his kitchen on these platforms, of course market it as well, and get orders, while focussing on kitchen operations only
• Lowered expense: Rahul’s sushi restaurant had to be in an expensive high street area, where the rentals and energy account for up 35 to 40 per cent of his revenue. Cloud kitchens do not. Vishal has much more leverage on lower fixed and variable expenses, making food more affordable
More benefits can be listed here, and they will only underline the fact that cloud kitchens and their marriage with food delivery platforms has brought the consumer at the helm, and future trends will follow the same appeasement.
These trends can be put in many different categories, which are as follows:
• Cuisines and food offerings: The data is available and it shows that more and more people in, say, Vasant Vihar area of South Delhi are going for a Keto diet. Using this, a cloud kitchen can be set up by Hoi Foods and other such start-ups at a very low investment. Small kitchens are viable with low demand as well. So expect such specialised kitchens to spring in your locality. Some other cuisine/food category trends that will grow include traditional meals (Gujarati, Bengali, Lakhnavi, Kashmiri, etc.); diet-related (keto, diabetic, expecting mothers, etc.) and international cuisines (Japanese, Thai, Mexican, etc.)
• Personalisation: Technology and data will allow the cloud kitchen operators to know their consumers better. There could well be diet plan linked menus or even more personalised dishes churned out of these cloud kitchens. Netflix of food? This trend is definitely coming. Gauri has to spend weekdays in Mumbai, alone and away from family, due to her new job there. She wants to eat home-style food with brown rice, low-spice dal, no oil and clean salad. She can get it and even ask for homemade ice cream, if she wants
• Transparency: How much do you know about the ingredients of what you eat at a restaurant? Almost Zero. Cloud kitchens are bound to change that. Big portion of cloud kitchen sales are due to the reduction in home cooking. This, coupled with more health-conscious consumer, will propel the need for knowledge about the ingredients, etc. This will also be a need of the hour, as cloud kitchens will have to work harder to improve the experience of the consumer
• Quicker delivery: As technology solves many problems, there is work going on in our company, Hoi Foods, and others to improve the delivery time. Do the consumers want faster gratification? Well they will get it. This will be mostly be done by making the delivery boy spend almost no waiting time at the kitchen
• Hygiene: Cloud kitchens have come in for a lot of flak lately, especially due to the fear of unhygienic practices in the kitchens that are not accessible. Not that people go into the kitchens of standalone restaurants, but the fear of the unknown comes in big time in the case of cloud kitchens. This perception will have to be changed. Cloud kitchens will be demanded and required to demonstrate hygienic practices. Walk-in tours, kitchen-op videos, watching your meal being cooked and many such trends are bound to come in soon
• Convergence of channels: All available channels that the consumer accesses will be accessed by the cloud kitchen. She can order food at home, in office, or in the bus or taxi, and can pick it up on the way home and even buy it at a retail outlet at the metro station
• Eco-friendly packaging: This is definitely a need of the hour. Meals are being delivered in plastic that could well be single-use. Cloud kitchens will be required to use more eco-friendly packaging. Plant-based and biodegradable plastics are on the anvil. Consumers will see them soon
Consumers are getting more demanding, and the entrepreneurs are getting more flexible to fulfill these demands. The future of cloud kitchens will be to follow the consumer everywhere and deliver more happiness.
(The author is founder, Hoi Foods.)