The digital age has had a hand in shaping our eating habits. Now more than ever, millions of people throughout the world are relying on mobile food delivery applications to have our favourite foods brought right to our doorstep. But ordering meals from restaurants far away could land customers in trouble with high delivery charges and cooked food that is not fresh.

In order to address this new hurdle in the food delivery industry, the concept of the ”cloud kitchen” has been circling around. The idea is actually less complex than it sounds. A cloud kitchen is a place where cooks and chefs from various restaurants gather at the same site to cook food in their allotted spaces; creating a centralised food hub where delivery riders can pick up orders of all kinds. Usually the cloud kitchen will be managed by a food delivery brand such as Grab Food.

The idea came about as an effort to increase the speed of deliveries as well as cutting costs. Restaurants do not need to open branches that may be too costly as they can set up a cooking space at a cloud kitchen in places where they can reach their customers via delivery service.

The concept was first developed in the early 2000s by founders of India’s kebab chain Faasos (now Rebel Foods) to counter years of high rent, outfitting costs and staff turnover; according to Suwatchai Songwanich, chief executive at Bangkok Bank (China).

They transformed their business model by opening a centralised cloud kitchen and focusing on low rent, online marketing and fast delivery. The company now prepares a variety of foods in its cloud kitchens, marketing each cuisine under a separate brand name, said Mr Suwatchai.

Throughout Southeast Asia, interest in cloud kitchens have been on the rise. They present huge opportunities for “super apps” such as Grab that are looking to find new revenue streams on their path towards greater profitability, and a new business model for food that combines the power of big data with the time-honored practice of food delivery.

At the moment, Southeast Asia’s food delivery industry is currently worth approximately US$5.2 billion, according to a 2019 Google-Temasek study, twofold growth from the previous year. Should this trend continue, the market is expected to grown even further, estimated to reach US$20 billion by 2025.

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