For generations, brands building a national presence relied solely on a brick-and-mortar strategy and made significant investments over decades. Brick-and-mortar brands often end up spending maximum revenue on rent and operation costs and face various challenges while scaling up across geographies. India also has a high rent-to-sales ratio and even before the pandemic, the business model was not always profitable. With the onset of the pandemic and lockdown, many restaurants were forced to shut down as they could not possibly cover their overhead costs with just delivery. That is where cloud kitchens became the game-changers. “Cloud kitchens are now a reality, and here to stay for a variety of reasons such as ease of scaling up and lower operation costs,” shared Ankur Sharma, CBO, Rebel Foods who believed that as an industry, cloud kitchens have been performing well even in the pre-covid era, while the pandemic has given the concept the much-needed push. This has also been successful since brands nationally and internationally realize that cloud kitchens are a great way to scale up a brand at an optimum cost and multiply the speed of growth. Excerpts from the interview:
Being the leader in the segment
Our focus on the ‘customer first’ approach has been our key ingredient while building Rebel Foods, its brands, and partner brands. Today, we are the world’s largest chain of internet restaurants building on the principle of placing our customers before us and business. Our Rebel operating model is built to scale brands and their growth in a meaningful manner. While building brands, our first step is to understand the market gap in the customer's want. Once that has been defined, we build and scale brands across the regions. However, our customer journey does not end here. We continue focusing on customer feedback and introduce and modify our offerings on our platform. The customer delight teams constantly work with brands to ensure that customer’s feedback is not only heard but also considered and implemented wherever possible. Our journey of putting ‘customer first’ continues with our promise of serving the best quality of ingredients, 100% transparency, 200+ quality checks, and no artificial flavour or colouring.
Rebel Launcher is where we welcome great restaurant brands to utilize our cloud kitchen to scale pan-India and even abroad. From finalizing a location, infrastructure, getting the kitchens running, getting legal and compliance in place, to setting up a supply chain, there are constant challenges to overcome while setting up a restaurant. Not forgetting, the latest challenge Covid-19. The pandemic has heavily impacted dine-in sales and given further impetus to the pre-existing food delivery business. This is where the Rebel Operating System comes in.
The Rebel Operating System comprises three things:
1. A full-stack technology from inventory and kitchen management all the way to demand management and fulfillment.
2. Supply chain capabilities for sourcing, warehousing, and moving input materials safely in any shape and form.
3. Culinary expertise and capabilities to break down menus into small SOP-driven steps that don’t require any additional skill.
These elements are available across all 350+ kitchens across 45+ cities. Brands as a part of Rebel Launcher can integrate instantly with all distribution channels and cost efficiency with shared resources. We partner with brands who reflect our promise of placing customers first and extend our expertise and scale them towards becoming a national brand on delivery. Our journey with Natural Ice Cream, Mad Over Donuts, Baskin Robbins India, SLAY Coffee, The Belgian Waffle Company, and other brands which now operate as a part of the Rebel Launcher program was smooth and successful. These brands started operating on the Rebel Operating model and scale up easily rather than create awareness by building offline stores which would be much more time-consuming and capital intensive. The Rebel Operating System simply enabled these brands to plug and play while using our world-class kitchen infrastructure. We further achieved a milestone in 2020 through our partnership with Wendy’s. In the coming months, we will scale Wendy’s presence pan-India across locations and aim to make America’s leading burger brand a household name in India.
Building a ‘Customer’ first approach
There are significant mutual benefits in partnering with brands as a part of Rebel Launcher. Over the years, we have launched some of the most loved, category-leading brands in India such as Behrouz Biryani, Ovenstory Pizza, Faasos, etc. This has allowed us to build a system that is easy to onboard and scale brands. With Rebel Launcher, we are allowing brands to access world-class distribution networks across 45+ cities and giving them visibility for the business. Partner brands also allow us to appeal and address various food missions of our customers and strengthen our offerings. As an organization, we want to continue powering brands that create products with the same thinking - customer first.
Tell us something about your existing brands. Which has been the customer and your favourite?
We have created some of the category-leading brands which have received customer love in its existing markets. Our brands currently appeal to various food missions such as single meal orders with Faasos to royal indulgence with Behrouz Biryani. Ovenstory has also seen a popular demand for its USPs such as different cheese offerings, thinner crust, etc. We are also looking forward to expanding Mandarin Oak, Sweet Truth, Lunch Box, etc. across locations.
While each of the brands we have a special story, Behrouz Biryani and its inception remain closest to my heart. The brand within one year of its launch was scaled pan-India which showcases the trust and love it has received. Behrouz Biryani has by far exceeded our expectations and helped us realize the potential of serving customers in different geographies.
What is the timeline on the scale-up for brands such as Wendy's, MOD, and naturals?
With Rebel Launcher, we take as less as 15 days to onboard brands, which starts from initial discussions to the date of the first sale from Rebel kitchens. Brands like Natural Ice Creams and Mad Over Donuts now operate at 40+ locations across India within 6 months of being a part of the Rebel Launcher family. We have scaled up Wendy’s in 30+ locations in the last four months and will reach 100 locations by the end of this year.
High on Expansion
We have opened kitchens in 15 new Tier-2 cities in India in addition to our international expansion which is underway. We have noticed that during the lockdown, a lot of people went back to their native cities or hometowns. Our consumers are shifting from one market to another, but this has further helped us in our expansion plan. We are now present in newer markets such as Amritsar, Jalandhar, Rohtak, Guntur, Trichy, Mangalore, Ranchi, Agra, Madurai, Kanpur, Dehradun. We are optimistic and committed to our growth in India and internationally
The pandemic has increased focus on food safety and cooking procedures which we believed will only gain prominence this year. Adhering to health and well-being while preparing food will be the focus while putting the control back into the hands of the customers. Apart from food safety, another important trend will be the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) across the food industry. For instance, voice-command features for ordering food are expected to hit the scene soon. The power of AI can be used in multiple ways due to its intuitive nature and recommending customers as per their tastes and likes on various dishes while ordering.