Cover Bolzico Beef quesadillas by CloudEats

When Metro Manila was gripped with lockdowns, the food and beverage industry had to find ways to get their products to their customers. The rise of cloud kitchens soon took hold and is proving to be much more than a trend

Aside from the hospitality industry, the other business that was hit hardest during the worst pandemic of our generation is that of food and beverage. Dining out was so deeply ingrained into our daily habits, especially in the faster-paced lifestyle of city dwellers, where grabbing a quick meal was as simple as popping into any mall.

Gatherings among family and friends are usually within the comfortable confines of a favourite restaurant or watering hole. Dining out was the sacred weekend ritual we rewarded ourselves with for tedious weekdays. When COVID-19 hit, these were rendered impossible with most of the population forced into isolation at home, and venues once buzzing with happy chatter and rambunctious laughter, fell suddenly silent.

Many business owners fumbled around given this new and unfamiliar social landscape, and those who faltered eventually faded away. Still, there were those who accepted the changes and realised that they need to evolve with it, and fast.

See also: How Has Dining In The Philippines Changed Through The Pandemic?

1. Kraver's Canteen

Food industry veteran Eric Thomas Dee was one of those quick to adapt to the new safety protocols for his existing brands, but he also recognised booming digital trends. He started Kraver’s Canteen in 2020 with e-commerce authority Victor Lim and finance specialist Victor Mapua, and got some serious backing from seasoned investors (Lance Gokongwei, Chris Po, Brian Cu, and Paulo Campos) who believed in its potential. 

To ensure the sustained growth and longevity of their startup, Dee and his team studied the most successful cloud kitchens in the world. They had the option to build kitchens or develop F&B brands, but Kraver’s Canteen has opted to apply a more hands-on approach. “We are not a real-estate company, or a brand-development agency. We are a service provider for F&B brands looking to grow online,” Dee explains. From kitchen rental spaces, software and tech services, and restaurant production fulfilment to full end-to-end management, Kraver's Canteen provides expert advice and direction with individualized handling given to each valued brand.

See also: Meet the Minds Behind Kraver's Canteen Cloud Kitchen

2. MadEats

Even more ambitious, then, is the Mikee Villareal-led F&B concept MadEats that chief growth officer Andie Cruz describes as “a full-stack F&B ghost kitchen which means we do everything from brand conceptualisation to building our own platform which we take orders from and fulfilling them with a fleet of our own riders.” The two ladies along with chief product officer Keisha Lao form the triumvirate that birthed brands Yang Gang, Chow Time, Fried Nice, and Dot Coffee.

Their business model allows them to have total control over their customer experience and also enables them to have immediate feedback which aids them in further developing their products. Still, cloud kitchens are a new concept in the Philippines and Cruz admits they need to “work harder” to get the word out about their food. “One disadvantage of what we’re doing is that generally speaking, F&B is highly competitive. In a world where delivery aggregators are so dominant, it can be difficult to change consumer habits.”

Perhaps these concerns are uncalled for considering that MadEats was recently given USD $125,000 in funding by Silicon Valley-based start-up accelerator Y Combinator, proving not only their rising dominance in the local food industry but also that their innovative choices have the potential to endure.

See also: MadEats Cloud Kitchen Is Elevating The Food Delivery Game

3. Cloud Eats

This follows the trend started by Kimberly Yao’s Cloud Eats when it raised USD $1.4 million in April 2020, and most recently USD $5 million in an oversubscribed Series A round led by Vulpes Investment Management of Singapore and Gobi Partners, with notable investors including Alibaba-backed BAce Capital, Intera Investments Limited, and GMA Ventures, giving the company traction to expand in the country and around Southeast Asia. 

Yao, an industry veteran that bolstered the club scene from early 2000s until recently, co-founded Cloud Eats, which now carries several brands including the country’s first online food court called 24/7Eats and Chef Carlo Miguel’s popular Burger Beast.

While these cloud kitchen concepts agree that their popularity is bound to wane once the pandemic is over and old eating habits return, there will always be a market for them now that people have had a taste of the convenience and variety they offer. Chef Miguel joined Cloud Eats during the first lockdown in 2020 as culinary director and sees the concept as the future of F&B. “Being a chef who has always had an eye on the latest technology and trends, being part of the company that is pioneering cloud restaurants here in the Philippines is absolutely ideal for me,” he admits. “I was aware of the cloud restaurant model well before the pandemic and realised that this was the future of the culinary industry.”

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