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NRAI Takes A Deep Dive Into The Rise Of Cloud Kitchens In India

Sticking to quality ingredients and single cuisine is the key to success for cloud kitchens.

Anannya Chatterjee

Cloud kitchens have been pretty much dominating the food industry for the last two years. During the nationwide lockdown, when restaurants shut down and people were cooped up inside their homes, cloud kitchens emerged as the saviours. For the unversed—cloud kitchens also known as virtual, ghost, or dark kitchens—are a low investment commercial space used for only cooking and delivering food.

Emphasising on the essence and concept of growing cloud kitchens in India, the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI)’s Mumbai Chapter held India’s first-ever Cloud Kitchen Convention recently at The Lalit, Mumbai. Led by Pranav Rungta, NRAI Mumbai Chapter head and director of Mint Hospitality Pvt Ltd and Rachel Goenka, NRAI Mumbai Chapter head and founder and CEO of The Chocolate Spoon Company—the convention witnessed a series of panel discussions with the industry’s who’s who stressing on the growth, business, economy, and future of cloud kitchens.

The evolution of cloud kitchens in India

The event kicked off with a welcome note by Kabir Suri, NRAI president and director of Azure Hospitality, followed by a session on the significance of integrating cloud kitchens into the Indian restaurant industry by Kallol Banerjee, co-founder of Rebel Foods.

Shailee Chatrath, director, Organised Trade Channel Sales and marketing, PepsiCo India Beverages said:“Cloud kitchens have evolved as a viable business model with the advent of new habit formation and digital acceleration, which has been further supported by the shift in consumer ordering behaviour.”

Elaborating on the escalation of cloud kitchens, Pranav Rungta and Rachel Goenka, said:“With the paradigm shift in consumer ordering behaviour, cloud kitchens have emerged as a lucrative business model in the industry.”

The roadmap to profit and earning customer trust

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The opening panel by Anurag Katriar, founder and MD of Indigo Hospitality, shed insights on building a profitable cloud kitchen business and retaining customers. Anurag Mehrotra, co-founder and CEO of Charcoal Eats and Raymond Andrews, founder of Biryani Blues, also highlighted the gravity of focusing on single cuisines over multiple ones.

The second panel focused on the roadmap to raising money and scaling business, with in-depth insights and evaluation about cloud kitchen investments from Sagar Daryani, NRAI Vice President and CEO and co-Founder of Wow! Momo Foods and Rochelle Dsouze, MD of Lighthouse Funds, among others.

Ajay Mariwala, Food Service India Pvt. Ltd, explained:“Building a strong brand with quality, consistency, and differentiation is a must in order to reduce the dependence on platforms to ensure repeat purchase leading to scalability. As a dark kitchen operator you should either be niche and small or broad and very large.”

Technology and its role in building cloud kitchens

The talking point for the third panel revolved around the role of technology in cloud kitchen efficiency, which included expert opinions by Rahul Singh, CEO and founder of The Beer Cafe and Shaival Desai, VP -growth, PetPooja. “Considering the ongoing changes in the restaurant industry, online food delivery has become the new normal with customers preferring doorstep food delivery over dine-in facilities. Many restaurateurs are now expressing interest in shifting from a traditional dine-in facility to setting up a delivery-only business,” added Rushabh Oza, country sales manager, Detpak India Pvt. Ltd.

Led by Riyaaz Amlani, CEO and MD of Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality Pvt. Ltd, the next panel highlighted the red flags and challenges faced by low-cost dark kitchens and how NRAI ensures food safety and hygiene.

Last but not the least, the concluding panel by Gauri Devidayal, co-founder and director of Food Matters India, underlined the marketing aspect of the growing cloud kitchen business and the importance of food menus to be distinctive and appealing.  

Sticking to single cuisine is the mantra

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Apart from the B2B industry experts, renowned celebrity chefs like Ranveer Brar and Zorawar Kalra were also present at the event and shared their take on the future of cloud kitchens. The chefs stressed on how not venturing into multi-cuisines and sticking to signature dishes will not only help cloud kitchens to sustain longer, but also change the face of the Indian food service industry.
 

Photo: NRAI
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