The rise of the ghost kitchens

Original article by Pooja Prabbhan, Deccan Herald, November 15, 2020

Not too long ago, at the onset of the pandemic, relishing a plate of homemade goodness — as most remained cooped up indoors — was the thing to do.Pictures of something as simple as a rice bowl with a side of fresh local greens, or mom-made meat loaves, the warmth of familiar love wafting from it, flooded social media feeds and became a vibe in itself. People – millennials and the middle-aged alike – found a thread of connect as they caved into the Dalgona Coffee trend and baked banana breads and sourdoughs in feverish glee. One post led to another and one thing was certain – the lockdown birthed many a home chef as people finally took refuge in the kitchen, to calm their chaos.Fast forward to now. As the Work-From-Home (WFH) way of being becomes the norm, ordering food from home chefs, from small businesses functioning within the confines of homes or from restaurants operating via cloud kitchens has picked up majorly. Ghost, or cloud kitchens, as they are known, are basically custom-built facilities to provide food for delivery. The advantages are clear — lower rents, much-lesser overheads and the opportunity for more culinary creativity. Which is why, many major dine-in restaurants in metros have cloud kitchens now and offer a wide array of global cuisines for the hungry homebird. Business and otherwise, the concept feels like a win-win and might end up re-fashioning the Indian culinary space in more ways than one could imagine.

Survival is key

Proactiveness is the key here. “As the lockdowns rolled out, we realised that a lot of youngsters in Bangalore needed the warmth of a comforting meal, which ticked the basic boxes — taste, hygiene and accessibility as they remained cooped up indoors. As everyone was engulfed in a wave of uncertainty, consuming a home-cooked meal somehow felt oddly comforting. And there began our journey, with offerings ranging from Indo-Chinese to Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese dishes. We’re a brand new and carefully built cloud kitchen, based out of Koramangala,” begins founder Shivam Gupta, enthusing how the venture runs on the ethos of inclusivity. “We have provided in-house accommodation to our chefs ‘to keep contact with outside personnel absolutely minimal’. Entrepreneurs — home-based or otherwise — need to be more invested in the safety of customers and the people behind it for their businesses to survive,” adds Shivam.

Thinking along similar lines, Kalpana Shah, a Mumbai-based home chef who runs a small venture of her own, believes it’s important for fledgling entrepreneurs to be proactive in their operating procedures. “Initially, as the lockdown was declared, business was impacted. Eventually, we were quick to build an operating procedure for safe food preparation and delivery. The numbers slowly picked up and we were back to normal much before we expected. My word of advice to home chefs running businesses would be to maintain food licenses and upgrade systems actively.”