Guwahati: Cloud kitchens are also referred to as ghost kitchens or virtual kitchens, as they have no physical space and options for customers to dine in. It serves as a production unit with a space for the preparation of food. The kitchen largely relies on home delivery orders or orders from third parties, often placed through aggregators.
Because cloud kitchens require less revenue to run, and owners neither have to pay for an expensive physical space nor require too many staff, these factors have greatly contributed to the success of this business model.
“Setting up a cloud kitchen typically requires 1/3rd of the investment required to set up a restaurant on account of lower rental costs. With just Rs 4 lakh, one can set-up a medium-sized cloud kitchen. Profit margins are usually in the range of 15-20 percent as opposed to 5-10 percent as compared to restaurants. I too used to run a café in Ulubari but now I am shifting to cloud kitchen business,” says Nabajyoti Bharali, owner of Spicy Trail, an upcoming cloud kitchen.
Over the years, the success of cloud kitchens in Guwahati has continued to increase, with more restaurant owners becoming cloud kitchen owners, largely due to the low cost of management needed in cloud kitchens. More recently because of the pandemic, the industry is witnessing a major drift from dine-in to delivery business. Increased work-life participation and scarcity of time have kept many away from home cooking activity. The convenience of ordering through apps without having to step out of the home has driven the demand. No wonder it is catching the eyes of new players every day.
Businessman, Nishat Hussain, owner of Zaffran Kitchens talks about the start of his journey in running a cloud kitchen. He notes “Initially, we opened the cloud kitchen to get an idea about how restaurant operation works around here. We began with a moderate investment of Rs 5-6 lakhs for the whole set up of a North Indian and Mughlai serving kitchen. Fortunately, customers take well to North Indian and Mughlai foods, and we saw great patronage, especially at dinner time.”
“Our aim was simple; to offer delicious cuisines. We soon found out that running a cloud kitchen requires more dedication, patience, and proper promotions and advertisement, largely due to its location and competitions. Without these business attributes, a business is bound to close as a result of intense competition,” adds Hussain.
Hussain notes that the majority of the promotions and advertisements done to boost sales happen offline, as much as online. Hoardings or newspapers are great sources of offline advertising, and even at that, it takes time for these kitchens to gain popularity. Some of his signature foods include; Chicken Butter Masala, Diwani Haandi, Chicken and Mutton Biryani, Galouti Kebabs, and Chicken Chaap.
Owners of cloud kitchens in Guwahati have experienced a constant increase in patronage over the years largely because these kitchens are run by home-chefs and that gives the cuisines a more homely appeal.
Also Read: Juventus appoint Andrea Pirlo as new manager
Founder of One-Stop Kitchen, Rahul Hazarika, who is no stranger to marketing as he started in the digital marketing space, speaking about his journey says, “In 2017, I had the idea to build a restaurant where food lovers could get all they wanted in a single place. This led me to begin the first-ever cloud kitchen and food tech start-up in Northeast India. My partner Abhilash Baruah and I began OSK food and Tech Pvt. Ltd. in 2019. With the help of our very loyal customers, we have steadily increased our value, and we are now valued at 1million dollars from an initial Rs 50,000 investment.”
With the right tools for succeeding in business, Hazarika has rapidly increased the growth of his kitchen. Since its inception in 2017, five more branches have been added to his brand. They include; House of Biryani which serves quality Biryani in kilos, One-stop Kitchen which is the flagship restaurant that kicked off his rapid business growth. They serve a variety of cuisines, HealthyCo which offers a personalised meal plan for people on a diet, Dabbaco offers requirements for Corporate food and OSK+ which includes essentials for customers.
With the rapid growth of his business, Hazarika is not done, as he plans to increase his business beyond the borders of the state and across the country. Although most of his cuisines sell excellently, he lists some of his most sought after dishes – Buffalo Wings, Teriyaki Bowls, Dim Sum Combo, and Ambur Biryani.
Unfortunately, these successful owners are now struggling to run the kitchens and sustain business due to the pandemic. Dibrugarh born and bred Sanjukta Dutta, a widely popular home-chef and foodpreneur, has noticed a decline in sales in her kitchen since the lockdown began. Dutta, who owns Chutney and Sauce describes in detail the effect of the lockdown on business in Guwahati.
“The night segment we run at Chutney and Sauce for a long time was the only one in Guwahati, but due to the curfew, we couldn’t keep the night business running. Our starting investment was Rs 7 lakhs. Although we were initially equipped to handle certain conditions, the budget took a great strain and we couldn’t even retain our staff after two months of the lockdown”.
Dutta noted that he chefs at Chutney and Sauce found it difficult to purchase ingredients because of the short shelf life of these ingredients. The ingredients needed to entertain their customers with relished delicacies like Grilled Chicken with Pumpkin Sauce, Galouti Kebabs, Pork Ribs, Paneer Tikki, and many more. However, Dutta is still optimistic about the luck of the restaurant changing soon to continue impressing their patrons as soon as possible.
Although the lockdown may significantly slow down the activity of these cloud kitchens, it is but for a short time. The tough times won’t last and the kitchens would go on to flourish once again.