Dine-in vs cloud kitchens and takeaways.

Credits: indianexpress.com

As we face a surge in Omicron variant cases with a new wave of Covid, we are once again attempting to stay safe while maintaining a semblance of normality. Unlike the previous two years, there is no enforced lockdown this time and people are going about their business as usual. Going to the office, shopping for groceries, meeting friends and family, albeit with caution.

But if there’s one sector that’s hit again, it’s the restaurant/ catering sector. Indian Express previously reported closing restaurants in Delhi to stem the rise in cases. While nothing can replace the experience of sitting down at a fancy restaurant, or even a coffee shop and eating your favorite food, there is an odd comfort in eating the exact same food at home.

Cloud kitchens and takeaways have given people access to fine dining and just about anything else they could desire, and restaurant owners and businesses are capitalizing on that potential.

For example, Foodya is a cloud kitchen that offers customers an authentic taste of North Indian, South Indian, Italian, Continental and other similar cuisines. Bharat Sharma, director of Foodya, said people are skeptical about going to restaurants these days due to safety concerns amid the pandemic. Therefore, they are deprived of the convenience that restaurants offer. However, cloud kitchens are revolutionizing this by delivering groceries to your home. Its services are perfect for busy and pandemic-affected city life.

He explained that cloud kitchens are “virtual entities” that only offer food for delivery or takeout. Although they don’t offer catering, they provide “fresh, satisfying meals on time and at your convenience”. They have several advantages over a traditional restaurant chain. While food entrepreneurs can start a business with very little investment, cloud kitchens are an affordable way for customers to have quality food.

Naman Pugalia, the founder of Peppo, agreed. He said all kitchens are cloud kitchens by definition. The volume of delivery and take-out has increased significantly in recent years due to various restrictions enacted by the government. The line between cooking and cloud cooking is blurred.

Peppo, a Bangalore-based brand caters to the needs of restaurants and enables them to sell online so they can focus solely on cooking. Pugalia added that eating out has declined, both due to “restrictions and regulations”. As working from home has increased, the overall share of wallet in terms of grocery delivery has also increased. Restaurants that prided themselves on the dining experience have also shifted to delivery and takeout. Pugalia said that many traditional kitchens have recently branched out and now serve different types of cuisines, and in a way, this has led to the blossoming of cloud kitchens, as all kitchens want to be present in the pool of visualization when consumers think about it, whether eating out or calling the grocery store at home.

What are the restaurants saying about it?

That’s the only option at the moment, according to Thomas Fenn, owner of Delhi’s Mahabelly restaurant, known for its takeout and delivery in southern India. But it varies by category. So while it’s good for those involved in casual dining, it doesn’t work as well for high end restaurants because a lot of what they’re selling is the experience and the level of service. They have a cloud kitchen on Gurugram, but that’s not a result of the pandemic; They have been doing it since 2017. They have partnered with food aggregators (like Swiggy and Zomato), and luckily or sadly, 90% of all sales are now on these platforms, even though the commissions are ridiculously high.

While Fenn stressed that fine dining and luxury restaurants cannot rely solely on cloud kitchens, Zorawar Kalra, founder and director of Massive Restaurants, which owns brands like Farzi Cafe, Pa Pa Ya and Bo Tai, said at indianexpress.com as of April 2021, have “largely shifted to a deep cloud approach”. They already have two brands, Louis Burger and Butter Delivery, launched in many parts of India and will soon launch a pizza and biryani brand in the cloud space. Before the pandemic, he was not interested in the cloud business. But then they started thinking about it and came to the conclusion that with the same spirit, level of energy and detail as offline, they could create a cloud kitchen mockup that replicates a top dining experience. Kalra added that the beauty of the cloud kitchen model is the low installation costs and the return on investment and time. But this does not mean that the offline model loses its relevance. Restaurants and bars will always be the bastion of hope for human civic engagement.

After the initial closure, the gourmet space quickly resumed operations. Indian Express reported in 2020 how hotels have taken steps to provide guests with a new experience by overhauling the menu, introducing food trucks, taking away food, and more.

Rahul Puri, general manager of multiple properties for The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi and The Westin Sohna Resort and Spa, commented on the cloud/ home kitchen model, telling that they are proud to be able to continue to start conversations about food from the comfort of their home through our food delivery services.

The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi launched meal delivery services under Marriott International’s Bonvoy on Wheels umbrella in May 2020; This remains a key segment driving sales to this day. Their delivery menu includes specialties from all of the restaurants, including signatures from the expatriate chefs from EEST (Pan-Asian) and Prego (Italian).
Initially the hotel ran the service using its own resources, but as demand grew it signed up with food delivery aggregators and is now available on food apps. The need was to review the “delivery menu” and experiment with different ingredients to ensure that when the product reaches the customer, it is visually appealing, as well as tasty and textural. It is important to monitor industry forecasts and trends, be agile and continue to innovate to meet current demands. While they always had an “Eat Right” menu, they now have a section dedicated to special dietary needs such as ketogenic and vegan items and special immunity boosters, especially for the current scenario.

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