‘The New Normal’: Cloud kitchens mushroom in M’luru amid Covid-19 blues


Team Udayavani, Aug 18, 2020, 6:30 PM IST

The coronavirus pandemic has been a blessing in disguise for several people, who were forced to introspect their skills and turn entrepreneurs after either being laid off or being sent on leave without pay (LWP) for an indefinite period. For many others, it offered them the much-needed time to pursue their passion, skills, etc.

In this article, we are primarily focussing on cloud kitchens which have mushroomed in the city over the last few months. For the uninitiated, a cloud-kitchen basically is a delivery-only restaurant and has no physical space for dine-in. Cloud kitchens often collaborate with food aggregators or provide the delivery themselves depending on the size of the set-up.

The reason for the spurt in cloud kitchens has been due to various factors ranging from safety apprehensions associated with dining-out to lay-offs of those from hotel and hospitality sector. Those who were into the catering business too are exploring this avenue owing to the restriction on weddings and other events amid the pandemic.

A cloud kitchen is a good business proposition as it does not require enormous investment or manpower and the advertising can be done via word-of-mouth or social media. Other regulatory approvals are however mandatory.

Melroy Lobo of Mel’s Kitchen has 18 cafe outlets in colleges and hospitals in the city. But due to the coronavirus, most of these outlets are now shut. “I had picked up a commercial space for Mel’s Kitchen around a year back. This has been my dream project and finally, I had the time to get it kick-started.”

“We have tied up with Swiggy and the customer feedback has been good,” he says adding that they have received 4.7 (out of 5) customer ratings.

On the business side, Melroy holds a positive outlook saying that while the business has been good, so far, it will only get better once the student crowd returns to hostels.

Speaking of the sudden emergence of cloud kitchens, amid the lockdown, Melroy opined that many in the catering business have chosen this as a stop-gap arrangement as no weddings, events are taking place. But once the wedding season commences they will return to their original business and then only proper cloud kitchens will remain.

Speaking to Udayavani, Francis of ‘Aroma The special caterers’ told Udayavani that they have several permanent staff working for them and paying salaries was a major concern. Hence they started ‘Aroma’ to tide over the crisis. Aroma comes up with different menus, special offers on a daily basis which is sent to their clients via Whatsapp and other modes. “We have a good client base and through them we get orders. Most of the orders are retail itself,” he added.

Neil Noronha who was earlier working in the hospitality industry is one among those who turned an entrepreneur during the lockdown and is now running ‘The Chai’ Place out of his home. “The entire hospitality industry has been badly affected and many employees have been sent on LWP. So it basically started like I had nothing to do and since I always wanted to start something like a cloud kitchen or a cafe from home itself I felt this was a good time to realize that dream,” said Neil on how he chose to set up ‘The Chai Place’.

“The business is in its nascent stages and presently most of the customers include family and friends. But we are advertising over Instagram now and am getting a good response,” he said. Neil has adopted an area-based approach at the moment since he personally delivers the food.

Quizzed about precautions being taken, Neil on a jovial note said “I have to keep in mind my safety as well along with that of customers. Yes, we are taking adequate precautions. To avoid physical contact we insist on online payments mostly GPay.”

Namrata Shetty runs the Nam’s Home Kitchen which offers authentic Mangalorean cuisines. While Namrata was taking food orders earlier as well, the Nam’s was officially started in the month of August.

Asked about the customer response she says, “It’s been good as in this scenario customers prefer home-cooked food. Also, with the advertisements, we are getting more recognition now.”

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