"The last couple of months have definitely been a downer for the industry, but that’s also what has made us innovate and come up with new solutions to entice diners,” says Rohit Aggarwal, Director of Lite Bite Foods Pvt. Ltd. LBF’s first kitchen is expected to go live in August 2020 in Delhi.
The F&B giant has aggressive expansion plans with the aim to open one kitchen every month, and roll-out 36 cloud kitchens over the course of three years, targeting Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
The company is one of India’s leading F&B retail conglomerates with popular and critically-acclaimed restaurant brands like Punjab Grill, TRES, You Mee, The Artful Baker, Zambar, Hahn’s Kitchen, Street foods by Punjab grill and many more under its wings. It is now venturing into cloud kitchens and a slew of other services, including its own food app.
And it’s not alone. As social distancing regulations continue to keep diners away from restaurants and restaurateurs hesitant themselves from opening their doors, preferring to stick to take-away and delivery for the foreseeable future, companies like Massive Restaurants, First Fiddle and others are also looking at cloud kitchens and hub-and-spoke models for their multiple restaurants spread over several cities, in order to cater to the skyrocketing demand for home delivery of premium foods.
For Sehaj Singh Kukreja and Tushar Anand, Co-founders, Cheferd Foods (a Delhi-based cloud kitchen company with brands like Pizza On My Plate, Burger In My Box and Deli Salad Company in its kitty), the change has been a long time coming. “From a business point of view, keeping fixed costs low through this period of uncertainty is the key. Food delivery outlets will have to adapt to working with a smaller team keeping social distancing rules in mind. We also believe that the Co-cooking business model will provide the best results among the industry. This will help everyone to cut short on the higher infrastructure cost,” notes Kukreja.
Industry insiders are bullish about this new model. Aggarwal says, “Lite Bite Foods is constantly seeking new avenues to grow and the new acquisitions and innovations further strengthen this vision. The online food delivery segment in India is set to grow at around 12 per cent annually, with the current scenario giving it a boost. We are investing approximately `25 crore in LBF Cloud Kitchens and are targeting at a turnover of `100 crore in the next three years. Ensuring sustainable growth and constant expansion, we plan to have all kitchens profitable at a unit level. We will be investing in state of the art kitchen infrastructure, ensuring optimum utilisation of space at minimum capex. Our staff will be fully trained on the best kitchen operating systems for delivery based business.”
There is also hope that this new system will help smaller players survive the pandemic, given there’s expected to be at least a 50-60 per cent attrition rate of restaurants in the coming months and years. “50 per cent reduction in seating capacity means a 50 per cent haircut in sales and with increased costs of sanitisation, hygiene, similar rentals and other COVID-19 induced expenses all of which means the road to profitability is under construction for the near future.
The only constant is change and we are ready to change and adapt to new normal, and I hope our colleagues from the restaurant industry are as well. As Horace once said, ‘Many shall be restored that now are fallen and many shall fall that now are in honour’,” concludes Anand.