Its interesting how over the course of just few months since our inception in June 2020, the definition of Ghost Kitchen Bangladesh has evolved so much. Starting just as a multiple cloud kitchen company, to a KaaS (Kitchen-as-a Service) operator, we have gone through it all. After months of trial and error, now (as of July 2021) we have a hyper-focus and call ourselves a tech-enabled internet restaurant (or cloud kitchen) platform that utilizes technology, virtual menu concepts and digital branding to help existing restaurants unleash their ‘cloud’ potential and drive additional revenues while improving bottom-line.
The urge to get into the food business was nothing that happened overnight. Almost 15 years ago, I was helping my father to start a fast-food restaurant chain in Bangladesh which, unfortunately, got halted due to unfortunate reasons. After all these years, when COVID-19 struck, I finally decided to enter the industry by launching a virtual cloud kitchen company after seeing the continuous growth in food takeaway/delivery business. Even during my time in the UK, I rarely visited fast-food restaurants like Domino’s Pizza, even though I used to eat their pizzas every fortnight. Because of the convenience and ease of ordering through their website, I would always eat pizzas while being in the comfort of my home. Although there was a huge opportunity in the cloud kitchen space in Bangladesh, I did not have the right resources then to start this project. After moving to Bangladesh, I was personally going through extensive pressure due to my commitment towards Best Electronics where I have worked for four years as the Marketing Director. During my tenure at Best, we have seen phenomenal growth in a very short time. In a matter of just 4 to 5 years, we took our retail network to the next level, covering almost 80% of all districts in the country.
And then 2019 happened, and I left Best Electronics to start my very own venture (TRI Digital) with a wonderful group of talented people, but we wanted to way more than just building brands for others.
One fine night in early 2020, I just felt that we, TRI Digital, as a team, can explore highly promising food-tech space that was about to boom in Bangladesh. And at that very moment, I felt we should start working on the cloud kitchen business which I was hoping to start one day. The next day, quite interestingly, I shared a business plan with our board and very smoothly we managed to secure additional investment to get things started. Once I had the confirmation from the board, we started digging into this so much that now we have excellent insight into the cloud kitchen industry, not only in Bangladesh, but also in India, Canada, and more. While carrying out our comprehensive market research, we quickly realized that the traditional cloud kitchen model might not actually work at this point if we just focus on one single brand. We thought of doing this in a much bigger way.
To get an idea about this whole concept, we don’t need to go very far. If we look into companies like Rebel Food (Faasos) in India, we can see how they are actually doing a wonderful job with this cloud kitchen business model. Definitely, there are multiple models within the cloud kitchen space. We felt at this point, in Bangladesh, we need to launch at least 3 distinct and unique brands to ensure optimum efficiency at our kitchens. And hence, we started our journey with 3 brands at first: Friggy’s, Party Pizza and Wrappo.
Burger and Fries
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, our team continuously moved around the city to find suitable commercial spaces where we can build our kitchens. With the help of our lead investors at Amader Group, we managed to secure our first kitchen at Tejgaon where we have built a state-of-the-art facility which runs as our R&D Centre and Master Kitchen. All the kitchen staff, whom we have hired so far, started their journey at this kitchen for their initial training and orientation.
Our pursuit in search of more commercial kitchens continued, and by 31-Dec-2020 we started our second kitchen in Moghbazar and launched our third kitchen in Banani right after. Furthermore, we also had a realistic plan of setting up more kitchens in Dhanmondi or Zigatola, Mohammadpur or Adabor, Mirpur, Badda, Bashundhara, by the end of 2021. Little we knew, where we were heading.
From the first day of 2021, we were booming like anything. With new unique brands and interesting food items being added to the portfolio, life was just beautiful. As we kept on growing our sales, obviously we had to work towards raising our Seed Round too as the initial Pre-Seed was not meant to help us survive for a long period of time. As we started meeting more and more VCs around the world and seasoned angel investors, we found a huge crack in our business model. At this current point in time, in Bangladesh, the cloud kitchen model is not sustainable because of the high CAPEX and OPEX. On top of it, fundamentally, startups, unlike SMEs, are meant to scale rapidly which was again not possible with a cloud kitchen model – unless you are Kitopi and can raise millions of dollars. Having said so, for SMEs willing to enter the restaurant industry in Bangladesh, multi-brand cloud kitchens are a blessing.
And then we went through a complete ‘pivot’. We went back to the drawing board and started to go deep into this industry and mind real-life problems where we can provide a tech-enabled solution and drive impact. On top of that, the model had to scalable. We cracked it this time. Rather than building our own cloud kitchens, we decided to shift away and actually empower 60,000+ small and med-sized restaurants with technology, food concepts, and digital branding. We became an impact-driven internet restaurant (or cloud kitchen) platform that utilizes technology, virtual menu concepts and digital branding to help existing restaurants unleash their ‘cloud’ potential and drive additional revenues while improving bottom-line.
At GKB, we are scaling at a rapid speed while ensuring growth for our Restaurant Partners. As we launch a new brand every 2 months, we are also adding 3-6 Restaurants Partners every month with a target of opening 50 internet restaurant outlets by December 2021. By the end of December 2022, this number will rise to 99.