Cloud Kitchens Mark New Trend in Food Service
Online behaviors meet the restaurant business
Recent data from food culture trend watcher The Hartman Group, tracks another evolution in food culture as consumers increasingly see home cooked meals as the healthiest, tastiest and most emotionally satisfying meal experience. According to Hartman’s Transformation of the American Meal study, 61 percent of consumers say they love to cook at home and 54 percent attest to cooking mostly with fresh ingredients.
- Restaurant businesses are facing increased headwinds as consumers fire up their stoves and when pressed for time, reach for meal kits to curate the menu decision or order online to have prepared food brought to the front door.
Increasingly, the food service industry is moving to adapt to these cultural shifts with the emergence of cloud kitchens – food preparation facilities designed specifically to fulfill digital orders, with no seating or service on premise.
For obvious reasons, the elimination of infrastructure costs for dining rooms, waitstaff and related expenses can make the digital kitchen business an attractive venture. Real estate location decisions and optimized space for kitchen operations can help lower overhead, while adding profit to the menu.
We all know what happens when the restaurant kitchen is in the weeds on a busy night. Patrons banking on the added value of exceptional dining experience, lose their patience when kitchens under fire to get the food out, may get behind in the pacing of courses served.
Friction free dining becomes an objective for consumers.
In a market environment where at-home eating is gaining traction, restaurant operators are required to up their game on all fronts – creating better on-site experiences that multiply the value of being in the dining room, while working to pioneer new channels allowing the business to go home, so to speak.
In India the cloud kitchen business has exploded as consumers there show growing preference for avoiding the unreal traffic conditions that are becoming routine in many larger cities. The stated goal: to bring restaurant quality food experiences to the family dining room.
As this story unfolds, here’s what we know:
- Not all foods travel well.
- Not all food-packaging options are conducive to maintaining flavor and temperature quality during transport.
- Consumers are relentlessly picky about culinary experience these days and quickly judge the difference from food well crafted and something less.
- The expectation of restaurant quality, chef prepared cuisine is exactly that – higher quality ingredients and preparations done with greater skill than the home cook. Elevated food and taste is anticipated.
At CBCI we envision continued growth in our restaurant consulting business as a result: optimizing menus, preparations and operations to help assure optimal food experiences in a digital business environment.
For example, we test menu options for travel conditions, time and temperature variations to assess what dishes work best in home delivery vs. those best left to the on-site dining room. We look for efficiencies in workflow and preparation stations, packaging insights to help assure the food experience represents the restaurant’s reputation in the right way.
We expect the cloud kitchen phenomenon to continue to build as it tracks with the increased comfort levels people have with on-line ordering and their desire to enjoy social experiences around the family room. Restaurants can participate here and be part of this desire, if done correctly.
We foresee a profitable new growth channel that expands the restaurant balance sheet beyond the limitations of physical space, tables and turns – in a cost scenario that potentially adds more profit to the bottom line.
Restaurant brand reputations are always at stake; we know how to enhance them…in the cloud.