India's cloud kitchens: Catering to cravings of connoisseurs amid Covid
Publish- November 30, 2020, 09:26 AM
S Kumar - UNB Delhi Correspondent
Update- November 30, 2020, 10:15 AM
Photo: Collected (Representational)
From a freshly baked "mood-boosting" pizza to the juicy sweet crab meat, food delivery has been a saviour for gastronomers in India amid Covid -- all thanks to cloud kitchens that are increasingly emerging as a safe bet these days.
A low-cost model, cloud kitchens are restaurants built around food delivery only rather than sit-down service. They are also known as ghost or dark kitchens, which work with online delivery apps for catering to customers.
Not only cloud kitchen startups are flourishing in the Indian capital and its outskirts, many big food and beverages companies are also turning towards the low-cost model due to the high demand for food delivery at doorstep.
"These days, people are reluctant to eat out. So, this new concept has come as a respite for food connoisseurs as well as housewives sick of cooking meal after meal at home. So, you get the best of both worlds at home," says Delhi-based culinary expert Seema Sharma.
"At the same time, restaurants, particularly in big cities, are lashing on to this concept to tide over the economic impact of Covid," she adds.
Agree restaurateurs, who have been hit hard by Covid and the consequent lockdown.
"We have recently tied up with two aggregators, Swiggy and Zomato, for food delivery at the doorstep of customers. This way, we have managed to save our business as well as the livelihoods of our employees," says Reeta Arya of 'China Wok' in central Delhi.
In Delhi's wealthy suburb of Gurgaon, a number of eateries have also adapted the cloud kitchen model. 'Flavours of Italy', popular for its hand-tossed pizzas, for instance, has not only tied up with aggregators but also started its own delivery fleet to cater to customers.
"Covid forced us to revisit our business model, In August, we shifted to the low-cost ghost kitchen model. Our sky-rocketing sales, thanks to our pizzas, have compelled us to get our waiters to drive deliveries. We are also saving on overheads," says co-owner Rishi Singh.
Not only established eateries, few enterprising individuals have also turned the Covid crisis into an opportunity by starting startups -- 48-year-old Meena Rathi, founder of 'Home Food at Home', being one of them.
"Till three months back, I was only cooking food for my husband and children. Now, I have started a cloud kitchen at home and catering to the breakfast needs of many. My aim is not just earning money, but to give fellow housewives a breather from kitchen duties," she says.
In fact, as per the latest survey of Zomato, the food and beverages industry in Delhi and adjoining cities has recovered nearly 80% of its revenue from the pre-Covid phase, by turning to home deliveries.
Moreover, the survey claims to have found that eateries in residential areas are doing 50% better business by delivering food than those in commercial areas as people have switched their expenditure from eating out to home delivery.
"For any foodie, food is the most frequently indulged pleasure. Thanks to food delivery apps and cloud kitchens, we gastronomers continue to enjoy restaurant foods at home. Indeed it's the best of both worlds for me and my wife," says Sunny Chandra, an IT professional.
While e-commerce pundits are predicting that cloud kitchens would thrive even in a post-Covid world, industry analysts are a bit apprehensive.
"Covid has definitely triggered a shift in consumer behaviour, particularly in the food and hospitality sector. But this trend might not sustain in a post-Covid world when people would love to venture out instead of ordering at home," says Romesh Tyagi, an industry analyst.