Cloud Kitchens: Where innovative tech is the secret ingredient

With over 17 years of experience, Junaid is no stranger to the MENA tech community, having previously worked with the likes of Amazon Web Services, Careem, Fetchr, and noon. He has established the foundations and technology arms for multiple hyperscale organisations, specialising in everything from distributed systems, platform architectures, computer vision-based systems, IoT, and data science. He is a hands-on engineer at heart, and still enjoys writing code for the platforms that he builds.

In addition to driving forward the tech and innovation strategy at kaykroo, Junaid is currently a board member for several multinational technology companies. He also advises and provides consultancy to a number of large corporates, governments, SMEs, and startups across the globe including, the UK, China, and MENA.

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Have you ever been in the kitchen of a bustling restaurant? The ‘Back of House’, with its multiple workstations where dedicated staff simultaneously prepare and present meals for their respective guests can only be described as organised chaos.

When it comes to food delivery, the same rules apply: the food needs to look good, taste good, and adhere to a strict set of hygiene and quality guidelines. While the pressure to wow guests is equally high, the process is substantially different. For one, you can’t rely on excellent service and great ambiance to create an experience. Meals need to be prepared quickly and efficiently – within anywhere from 6 to 12 minutes. The temperature of the food needs to be as if the guest were being served at a restaurant, and packaging must be delivery-friendly to weather the usually bumpy ride of last-mile delivery.

And of course, you only have one chance to make a great impression or risk losing the customer forever.

The Cloud Kitchen difference

Aggregate the workload of multiple restaurant brands and hundreds of menu items into one kitchen and you have what is commonly known in the industry as a cloud kitchen.

Cloud kitchens – also referred to as dark, ghost, or virtual kitchens – house staff, stock (including perishable long- and short-life ingredients), cooking equipment, and have environmentally controlled storage areas. The objective is to prepare precision-crafted culinary delights for remote guests when they order food online with a predictable and consistent level of quality, at scale.

While an industry-standard definition for cloud kitchens does not exist, we at kaykroo define cloud kitchens as a parallel to cloud computing:

Cloud kitchens are technology-driven facilities that provide on-demand resources to efficiently prepare and dispatch high-quality meals at scale. They have the ability to diversify brands and menu offerings, and orchestrate preparation workflows, always aiming to maximise the utilisation of resources including people, space, ingredients, and equipment.2021 Emerging Venture Markets Report

The advantages of Cloud Kitchens

Cloud kitchens have been taking the global F&B industry by storm, and are projected to reach a market size of $71.4B by 2027, according to recent research by Valuates Reports. It’s no wonder that the cloud kitchen movement has taken off globally. But, what’s the ‘secret ingredient’? Cloud kitchens provide a variety of advantages, which include:  

● Enabling businesses to produce unique food without making large upfront investments in developing brick and mortar dine-in facilities.
● Building economies of scale and reducing the cost of operation per unit area.
● Allowing businesses to elastically scale up or down while dynamically allocating and deallocating resources based on demand on a minute-by-minute basis.
● Reducing time to market by increasing accessibility to new brands.
● Decreasing the cost of experimentation, enabling businesses to change course according to the tide.

The Tech behind Cloud Kitchens

The tasks involved in preparing food, optimising resources across the cloud kitchen network, and innovating new brands are both computationally and data-intensive. Because of this, cloud kitchen technology involves many various components helping to solve a complex set of problems.

When we launched kaykroo, we set out to revolutionise the cloud kitchen industry through the power of modern-day technology. Our mission was to find a simple and ethical way to facilitate food production at any given facility, for multiple restaurant brands at a guaranteed level of quality, efficiency, cost, and of course, scale.

What cloud kitchen proprietary tech should incorporate:

Workflow Orchestration Engine that controls the flow of orders and routes tasks to relevant workstations, while providing granular instructions for food preparation. Kitchen staff receive streamed summaries of customer feedback, so they can tailor every meal to a customer's preference. This is taking customisation to a whole new level and is as close to operating as a ‘personal chef’ as restaurants are able to get.

Resource Provisioning Manager that dynamically adjusts physical workstation activity based on a number of data points, including the time of day, promotional campaign schedules, and traffic predictions using historical data. Not only does this allow for optimisation of all resources, from kitchen staff to ingredients and space, it results in less wastage, a more sustainable business model, and a workforce that isn’t overworked or exhausted.

Brand Innovation Engine that helps create new concepts by learning from hidden patterns within an ever-growing datastore. At kaykroo, we are able to look at everything from customer sentiment to flavour profiles based on taste, smell, colour and texture, while also calculating the nutritional value (including caloric content and macronutrients).  This allows us to map personas, and develop brands and menu items to match customer preferences – so when we introduce new concepts to our portfolio, we know for a fact that they are catering to existing demand.

Process and Standards Compliance Engine that uses classical algorithms in computer vision and image processing to provide object recognition and tracking. It checks that procedures such as area cleaning frequency, handwashing frequency and staff attire, including the wearing of face masks, are being adhered to. Health and safety are critical at the best of times, and even more so in the midst of a global pandemic. There is a level of trust that customers place in F&B providers when ordering their meals, and the monitoring and alert systems integrated into our kitchens ensure that trust isn’t broken.

The emergence of cloud kitchens has already turned the business models of many restaurants on their heads, and the kind of tech we’re working with today couldn’t have even been perceived 3-5 years ago.  The speed at which the industry is innovating is unprecedented and, if we are to discuss this topic six months from now, I can guarantee we will have at least a dozen new features in the works that haven’t been thought of yet. The customer should always remain as the priority, so even as boundaries are pushed, everything has to come back to creating the best possible experience for those ordering from cloud kitchens.

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