Cloud Kitchens: New face of F&B in 2020

When the COVID-19 pandemic grabbed the globe in its clutches in 2020, restaurants and hotels came to a standstill. In this period, four newcomers, Thaiphoon, Out Of Pao, Missus Sippi, and One Tight Wrap, entered Mumbai's F&B market with a new cloud kitchen concept. BW HOTELIER got in touch with these new-age cloud kitchens to get an insight into their functioning. We are presenting part 1 of the two-part feature.

2020 was a year that propelled transformation on various grounds wherein work from home became the new norm and OTT platforms became the dominant entertainment source. What completes this transition is the emergence of cloud kitchens. 2020 was a year all about cloud kitchens.

After the lockdown, restaurants had to shut down, and businesses started to dwindle; however, few chose to adapt to the changing times and gave birth to the cloud kitchen concept, also known as ghost or dark kitchen.

Cloud kitchen is a facility wherein food is ordered via an app or website, cooked, packed, and delivered to the customer. What is not available in the cloud kitchen is the dine-in facility. If we consider the COVID-19 pandemic situation, then it would not be wrong to say that a cloud kitchen slashes people's possibility to engage in shared spaces. However, now the responsibility of ensuring customers' safety lies in kitchen staff and aggregators' hands.

BW HOTELIER talks to John Fernandes, Chef, Thaiphoon, Dave Malhotra, Co-founder, Out Of Pao, Kunal Malhotra, Co-founder, Missus Sippi, and Rahul Bajaj, Director, and Conceptualizer, One Tight Wrap to understand the current scenario of cloud kitchen as a viable option for the consumers in Mumbai. They also expressed their views on how the situation will be for cloud kitchen in the future.

Conceptualising Cloud Kitchens

Elaborating on the concept of ‘Thaiphoon’, John Fernandes said, “The conceptualization of Thaiphoon was in the process several months before the pandemic was announced. We meticulously worked out every detail with chalked out plans to set up multiple outlets for the brand as a delivery kitchen, storefront, restaurant, and a food truck. Due to the pandemic's onset, the cloud kitchen model was a more profitable option to present the brand offerings for our customers.”

While sharing his viewpoint on the same, Dave Malhotra said, “We have been working on this idea since early 2019, with an end vision to transform this brand into a food truck chain alongside cloud kitchen setups. Instead of launching both the verticals together, we decided to go ahead with our cloud kitchen plan first as it was more suitable and preferable during the pandemic.” 

Pandemic birth to Cloud Kitchens

COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the Food and Beverage industry. Cloud kitchen has appeared as a viable alternative for customers to avoid non-essential outdoor activities and enjoy their favourite food. “We have been working on the concept for the past 3- 4 years now, involved in developing the menu and building up brand strategies. We have been witnessing a noticeable shift in consumer behaviour even before the pandemic hit us. The delivery kitchen model gained popularity well before 2020. Our model was to open a chain of cloud kitchen from the beginning, which proved to be the best time to launch it. We have been active in Mumbai since September 2020,” stated Kunal Malhotra.

While Rahul Bajaj added in conclusion, “Giving in to the pandemic, the restaurants had to shut down, and the only source of income generated was via home deliveries. To keep the business afloat, we thought initiating One Tight Wrap as a cloud kitchen model seemed feasible to start during the lockdown.”

Positive beginning for all

All four cloud kitchens came into existence quite recently. Despite the pandemic situation, the reception has been positive for the cloud kitchens located in Mumbai. Commenting on the reception of ‘Thaiphoon’, John Fernandes said, “Our cloud kitchen has been launched in September 2020, and the response has been phenomenal. Our customers love Thai food's authentic flavour, which they have displayed repeatedly with their positive reviews and feedback! We already have many loyal customers who have shown immense faith in our offerings and boost us with their frequent ordering in.” 

Talking about the growing network of customers for ‘Out Of Pao’, Dave Malhotra expressed, “We launched in September 2020, and the response has been rather overwhelming. We have already made a pool of loyal customers, the kinds who keep introducing the brand to their extended circle. This would only get better from here on, as we see the world slowly getting back to its normal routine.” 

Speaking about the appreciation received from customers for ‘Missus Sippi’s’ authentic concept, Kunal Malhotra stated, “It has been almost four months since we launched our brand in Mumbai. The response has been really good ever since. We always knew that people would appreciate an honest traditional beverage brand if we kept our brand story simple and interact with our core audience. People here are not new to the concept of getting their preferred food or beverage items delivered right to their doorstep. Launch in September 2020 was the perfect time for us to start operating because the country had started opening up from the early rigid lockdowns.”

Highlighting the importance of feedback and repeated improvisation amidst positive response, Rahul Bajaj told, “We launched One Tight Wrap in November 2020, and since the first day, the response has been amazing. We are still understanding the customers' responses and considering their feedback to bettering ourselves. Whoever has ordered once has reordered as the menu oozes healthy alternatives and delicious taste as we didn't want to use maida, atta, and other unhealthy options. We have played around and experimented with all the healthy ingredients and fresh produce mix-matching with each other to create these gluten-free, vegan, and organic wraps. We have ensured that our menu caters to all sets of people.” 

Leaving no stone unturned as far as safety is concerned

Ensuring the safety for the guests is the utmost priority for the cloud kitchens. Speaking about the measures employed at ‘Thaiphoon,’ John Fernandes said, “We have a stringent Covid-19 SOP in place, which we adhere to for our kitchen team and customers' safety. We sanitize our facility at regular intervals, along with following all the safety precautions. All employees and third-party delivery personnel are screened at the entry point for symptoms, and body temperature checks are regularly carried out. Use of hand sanitizer, wearing masks, gloves, and headgear is mandatory in the kitchen. Frequent handwashing with soap is mandated after using the facilities and after touching any shared surfaces. The packaging material meant to carry food out to customers is always handled with sanitised/gloved hands.”

Throwing light on ‘Out Of Pao’s’ safe practices, Dave Malhotra informed, “We perform complete sanitization of the cloud kitchen every day. Hourly sanitization of the kitchen equipment and frequent temperature checks of the staff members is also undertaken. Weekly training for our staff is done to ensure hygiene standards are top-notch. Additionally, we sanitize second party delivery riders as well.”

Talking about the strict hygiene protocols followed at ‘Missus Sippi,’ Kunal Malhotra expressed, “We have strict hygiene mandates followed by our management and kitchen staff. We note daily temperatures, conduct hourly sanitisations, and to an extent that we are also sanitising every delivery rider before they head out for their respective deliveries. It is purely our responsibility to ensure that our staff is well educated about the dos and don’ts, and this simple practice makes it easy for us to maintain our hygiene standards.”

ISO 9001 certification is here to save the day

In these uncertain times, the ISO 9001 certification's validation provides reassurance to the customers of 'One Tight Wrap.' Mentioning about the various measures taken by the cloud kitchen, Rahul Bajaj said, “Giving to the pandemic, we have taken some important measures for our staff and senior team members. We made them stay quarantined at our Hotel Le Sutra from the first day of the lockdown to maintain the utmost care and cleanliness discipline. These staff members were trained to practice the best-in-class safety measures like periodic temperature checks, sanitizing the restaurant premises at regular intervals, using face masks and hand sanitizers, etc.”

“We are also sanitizing the packaging material and the kitchen area at regular intervals, and the bakers and the staff following proper sterilization steps. We have set up hand sanitizing stations at the restaurant for our staff and delivery people to sanitize their hands before handling the food package. We also make sure that none of the staff members touches the food after packing it. We check the staff's temperature and the delivery person and make sure they are wearing the mask and gloves while maintaining a one-meter distance. ‘Out Of The Blue’ is the first restaurant with a centralized machine instituted that sanitizes the whole property, purifying the air and making it Corona-free. Plus, we were the first restaurant to have an ISO 9001 certification and have followed these rules for 15 years,” he concluded.


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