There’s no question that foodpreneurs mushroomed amidst the lockdowns.
Since then, many of them have expanded out of their home kitchens and into cloud kitchens. Given full access to the facilities found in real-life commercial kitchens, foodpreneurs are equipped to fulfil more orders, in turn expanding their operations.
KitchenConnect wants a slice of the cloud kitchen pie. Having begun its Malaysian operations in 2020, the brand is a part of Travis Kalanick’s—a co-founder and former CEO of Uber—CloudKitchens business.
Now, KitchenConnect is present in four locations with 112 kitchens across Klang Valley.
“Our facilities are optimised for delivery whereby each operator gets a kitchen equipped with basic infrastructure with no front of the house,” said Arin Aghazarian, KitchenConnect’s General Manager.
“This reduces the upfront CaPex (capital expenditure) cost of building a whole restaurant including exhaust, aircon, plumbing, design and also, your OpEx (operating expenses).”
Cultivating a melting pot
CloudKitchens is a registered trademark and a brand that has been established in other countries, while KitchenConnect was created solely for Malaysia.
Arin shared that Malaysia was chosen as the main location for setting up KitchenConnect as the country is well-known for being the melting pot of culture and cuisine, not to mention our locals’ deep love for food.
By now, I’m sure most would get the gist of how cloud kitchens work. But if you’re unfamiliar, they’re essentially a restaurant with no physical storefront for customers to dine in.
Virtual F&B brands using it rely solely on food deliveries via their own website, or through delivery apps like GrabFood, foodpanda, AirAsia food, ShopeeFoodetc. You can read our full explainer piece along with the pros and cons of cloud kitchens here.
Part of KitchenConnect’s business model is aimed at being an incubator to help startups and entrepreneurs grow their businesses in the F&B industry.
They assist F&B brands by solving common problems they may face as an infant brand. These include managing their finances, running stock takes, consolidating data, as well as branding and marketing.
KitchenConnect is present in central locations around Klang Valley, including Mont Kiara, Damansara Jaya, KLCC, and Ampang. “We have about 20-30 kitchens in each location and there is no limit to how many diverse brands can come out of a kitchen, “Arin added.
The cost of rent
As F&B brands don’t own their individual restaurants when using a cloud kitchen, the cost of rent should expectedly be lower when renting a smaller space. To be a KitchenConnect licence, the expected monthly rent is about RM3,500.
However, based on available information online, the fee is on the higher side of things, as we were able to find other cloud kitchens offering rent as low as RM900 per month.
Although, it goes without saying that each cloud kitchen’s rental cost could differ due to their location, additional services, and more.
Arin pointed to the facilities and services offered by KitchenConnect that are provided to its licencees. In addition, insurance, maintenance of the kitchens, pest control, order management, and interaction with delivery riders are handled by the cloud kitchen.
“The technology that we employ through valuable tools and insightful data can be a game-changer,” Arin explained.
“Through tech, we can predict demand, optimise your business, and increase the return on your investment as well as ensure that all your process from prep to the safe arrival of delivery is streamlined and convenient.”
Consultancy is also provided to KitchenConnect’s licences to help them scale their businesses.
Case study: FOWLBOYS
With KitchenConnect already managing the backend operations to allow its licences to focus on their craft, some may argue that marketing independently is essential to a startup’s growth.
Plus, upon expansion, entrepreneurs would generally have plans to open their own restaurants, making such knowledge and experience all the more vital.
Wouldn’t KitchenConnect’s services have limitations for these business founders?
“No. As we have different locations, any F&B brands which started with us at one location, have the flexibility to also be a licence at any of our other locations and can receive the same support provided,” Arin contended.
She pointed to FOWLBOYS as an example, a brand we’ve featured in its early days when it still operates from home.
“They started with us at our Mont Kiara outlet and then moved to The Grange @ KLCC so that they can cater to more central city markets while opening up their own restaurant in Subang,” Arin elaborated.
Of course, these F&B brands would eventually mature over time, but Arin shared that KitchenConnect will continue supporting entrepreneurs in growing their businesses.
“And we are as hands-on or hands-off as much as the brand wants us to be. We would be very proud if a brand expands with us or independently,” Arin told Vulcan Post.
Arin added that other licences under KitchenConnect that have grown in popularity include Pasta Ohsem, Sugar Bun, and Purple Monkey.
Expanding the kitchen to expand other brands
In the near future, KitchenConnect is looking to expand its Klang Valley outlets to include Subang and Cheras.
Arin added that for the rest of Malaysia, the team is eyeing prime locations including Penang and Johor as well.
Now that dining in is the norm again, I’ve noticed that several cloud kitchens have adapted to the shift in customer behaviour to offer dine-in spaces for customers.
One of them is homegrown cloud kitchen COOKHOUSE’s Artisan’s Playgroundwhich offers an elevated hybrid kitchen experience by partnering with established F&B brands.
While it appears that KitchenConnect focuses more on working with budding entrepreneurs, increasing their visibility with a dine-in strategy will help the brand remain competitive amidst other cloud kitchens in town.
With our observations on cloud kitchen growth over the past few years, two things are clear: they’re here to stay, and this isn’t even their final form.
Featured Image Credit: The KitchenConnect team