Food industry has been the worst hit sector during the COVID-19—there can be no denying that. The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has not only consumed millions of lives, but killed livelihood at large. It has also brought businesses to a grinding halt. World economy slumped in the beginning of this year and has further declined with the end of the year fast approaching. The worst is yet to come though. Lockdown after lockdowns, social distancing and other measures ensured that businesses in many parts of the world die a slow death. This precarious situation has also pushed businesses to innovate as much as they should to disrupt potential areas.
Sending shockwaves through disruption
This disruption was clearly felt in the online-or- e-training sector cutting borders all over. And more importantly, it sent a strong message that it is definitely not the end of the road for regular training classes and teaching sessions. Digital transformation, according to most industry pundits, can unlock a world of opportunities for business in the future. Businesses that fail to adopt digital transformation might lose out to competition big time. Generally, the story, the long and short of it, why also businesses fail in the long run. Therefore, the message out here is pretty clear: businesses need to innovate in order to stay relevant in the game.
F&B industry is losing big time!
Coming to the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry, it accounts for nearly 3 per cent of the country’s GDP. It is the single largest employer having a workforce of more than 7.3 million. The countrywide lockdown during the pandemic saw some nearly a quarter of all restaurants shutting down by the end of 2020. This means that India’s US$50 billion restaurant industry is expected to lose roughly US$9 billion in 2020, as per a study by the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI). To tackle these challenges and restore normalcy, the industry has been innovating and adapting to the changes since the relaxation of lockdowns. Innovative service offerings and COVID hygiene standards are normalized so as to regain customer trust and enhance revenue.
A sea of changes – Emergence of Cloud kitchens
The industry too has been undergoing a sea of changes within a relatively short span of time. Perhaps, the shattering change is that of commercial kitchens increasingly becoming sophisticated and innovative in nature. The emergence of food delivery startups like Zomato, Swiggy, Uber Eats, Food Panda, Fassos, Freshmenu, etc have changed the very dynamics of food industry.
Furthermore, the rise of food delivery apps introduced the concept of ‘cloud kitchens’. Simply defined commercial facilities that are specifically built to produce food for delivery. These commissary kitchens are also termed ‘shared kitchens’, ‘virtual kitchens’ or ‘ghost kitchens’, with the delivery-only food brands functioning within them known as ‘virtual restaurants’. It all started with the pizza industry that practically based its business around delivery optimization. Recent tech advances and changing dynamics of consumer habits served as an impetus for the pizza and burger industry shifting to delivery-only model. There are numerous advantages of delivery-only model compared to a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Applications of Commercial kitchen equipment
The opportunities for food startups—either looking to start a commissary kitchen or virtual restaurants—are greater than ever before. Thanks to the rise of commercial kitchen technology and shared kitchen concept in line with the tectonic shifts in the market dynamics. Central kitchens, on the other hand, form the core of operation of hotels and restaurants chains. Commercial kitchens find application in hotels and restaurants, QSR chains, bakery, cafe, snack bars, institutions, catering companies, hospital kitchens, industrial canteens, RTE and RTC.
Commercial kitchen equipment is the lifeline of central kitchens as there is a machine for every process including baking, cooking, meat-preparation, dish and warewashing, quick service, food processing, pre-preparation, heating, cooling, storage, etc. Construction-wise, most commercial kitchen machines come with premium-grade Stainless Steel (SS) which exhibit better hygiene, food safety and excellent anti-corrosion properties.
Today’s commercial kitchen technology is shaped by automation capabilities with which most machines are built with. Basically, this has allowed kitchen operators to squeeze the maximum out of their existing staff, ingredients, resources and kitchen space for fulfilling orders. Commercial kitchens that leverage on innovative technologies like IoT have reaped early gains. This is to say that food wastage has been reduced and food production has increased manifold times. The overall food quality has improved significantly owing to the deployment of kitchen technologies.
Commercial kitchen machines for Cloud kitchens
Most restaurants have benefited by operating a central kitchen as a business in itself; some even rent out kitchen space to third-party brands, functioning like an incubator or co-working space for food producers. This, in, turn, has eliminated the biggest challenge for restaurant owners—compliance with ever-stringent labour laws and staffing costs. They can easily take stock of on-demand labour without having to spend sleepless night over service staff. The barrier for entry is now minimal for central and cloud kitchens compared to traditional restaurants. Practically, they spell lower costs as they do not expose the customer to the dining area (also known as the Front of the House or FOH), floor space for seating or exorbitant rents for setting up storefronts characterized by heavy foot traffic in main locations. A commercial kitchen owner can save on the cost of ingredients by leveraging on economies of scale. By this virtual restaurants make large orders for several different delivery-only brands functioning from the same kitchen. Now, it is eventually the customer who gets the benefit out of the cost-savings, giving traditional restaurants a run for their money. Though setting up a commercial kitchen can be capital-intensive, and may require funding or investment at different levels, the benefits associated with it may pay off in the long run.
A few considerations before setting up a commercial kitchen include involving your chef, developing menu, deciding upon what you don’t need and what you really don’t, planning the kitchen workflow, deciding the commercial equipment range, setting up a flexible budget and researching local health compliance standards and regulations. All said and done commercial technology and the use of right commercial kitchen machines can improve the overall efficiency and how centralized kitchens can function in the new age.
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