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Dining via the cloud

GrabKitchen opens more branches

RIGHT before the pandemic closed down restaurants and encouraged dining at home, GrabFood introduced its GrabKitchen concept —  a “cloud kitchen” —  in Glorietta last year. In the aftermath of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), GrabKitchen is expanding. It opened a branch in Sampaloc in February, and will soon open two more in Malate, and Paranaque — the last two were announced in a press conference on Zoom on May 12.

A “cloud kitchen” is a restaurant that focuses exclusively on takeout and/or delivery, with no dine-in section. In the Grab version, GrabKitchen serves as a central commissary, with multiple brands sharing the same kitchen. With this set-up customers can order items from different restaurants at the same time and have them delivered together

GrabKitchen’s Glorietta branch, which opened just as the pandemic was starting in Feb. 2020, served as the cloud kitchen (albeit with limited seating) for Omakase, Mister Kabab, 24 Chicken, Recovery Food, Frank and Dean, and CoCo Fresh Tea and Juice. The cloud kitchen setup enabled customers to order from these restaurants, despite the absence of a brick-and-mortar store.

What was once presented as novel in the early days of 2020 — although GrabKitchens have been up in Indonesia since 2018, and the concept is present through most of Grab’s Southeast Asian market — has now become an essential in the metro.

The pandemic did put a hitch in Grab Philippines’s original plans — they had been slated to open three GrabKitchen branches in 2020. It is now catching up.

The newly opened Sampaloc branch carries the following brands: CoCo Fresh Tea and Juice, Conti’s, Omakase Sinangag Express, Mister Kabab, Army Navy, Pizza Telefono, and Happilee.

The soon-to-open Malate branch will have Omakase, Frankie’s, Recovery Food, Paper Moon, Yogorino, Pepi Cubano, Dapo at Tisa, King Chef, La Tita, Selecta, So Mot, Blu Kouzina, Coco Fresh Tea and Juice, Merienda by Pan De Manila, and Go! Salads.

The Parañaque branch will service select areas nearby in Cavite, Las Pinas, and Muntinlupa. It will offer 24 Chicken, Alishan at the Alley, Army Navy, Cara Mia, La Titas MNL, Pizza Telefono, Kyoto Sushi Bake, Bahn Mi Kitchen, El Nacho Libre, Sheikh’s Kebab, Breakfast for 2, and Black Kimchi, Selecta, Omakase, and Dapo at Tisa.

According to a company press release, “Filipinos can look forward to the opening of many more GrabKitchen branches soon.”

“These new GrabKitchen branches in these locations help to bring a wider variety of delicious food options to consumers. People can sample new tastes as well as enjoy their most well-loved favorites such as Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, European, and American. We want consumers and their friends and families to really enjoy their meals, and they can choose from our wide selection of cuisines and restaurants, mix and match their orders, and pay for one delivery fee,” Josephine Kamiyama, Project Lead for GrabKitchen in the Philippines, as quoted as saying in a press release.

It is the mixing and matching option that has pushed the concept, she said in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.

“Since the launch of GrabKitchen Makati, we’ve been seeing continued interest in the idea of mixing and matching orders to satisfy the different palates of friends and family. I think this is one of the driving factors why the concept works,” she said.

The app’s historical data provided the information needed to come up with precise mix of food on offer and the best locations for the kitchens.

“We also see that consumers are responding well to the different cuisines of GrabKitchen merchants, which we identified in the first place by leveraging historical data from the app and use that as the basis for our expansion plans. By leveraging on data, we saw the demand from consumers, and expanded to the three new locations of GrabKitchen,” Ms. Kamiyama told BusinessWorld.

“Our end goal is to provide a variety of cuisines to cater to the diverse demands of consumers,” she said. “We use our data to identify what the cuisine gaps are in the area, and look for merchants who may be interested to expand with us through GrabKitchen. For example, Frankie’s is a well-loved chicken restaurant in the QC, Pasig areas, but customers in Manila wouldn’t have access to it because of the distance. Now that it’s in GrabKitchen Malate, customers in the Manila area can not only order their favorite chicken dish from Frankie’s, they can also mix-and-match it with a variety of choices from other restaurants — all in one delivery fee. ”

The company sees the opening of more GrabKitchens soon.

The benefit to the consumer is easy to see, but what about for the merchants?

Ms. Kamiyama told BusinessWorld that merchants earn through “a revenue-sharing agreement with our partner merchants, which varies depending on different considerations.”

“I think it minimizes the risk, as opposed to opening a brick and mortar [restaurant],” said Vicente Raphael del Rosario IV, Senior Vice-President of Viva International Food and Restaurants, Inc., the dining division of the Viva Group of entertainment companies.

Viva International Food and Restaurants’ brands — Paper Moon, Botejyu, Wing Zone, Pepi Cubano and Yogorino —  are well-represented in the new GrabKitchens.

“It’s really an extension of your restaurant, or of your brand. You’re able to bring it to more places. It’s a big help to be present everywhere,” said Mr. Del Rosario. 

If one happens to live in the Makati, Malate, Sampaloc, and Parañaque areas, one can order through GrabKitchen on the Grab App. Delivery is free with a minimum purchase of P500 with the use of the promo code GRABKITCHEN! —  Joseph L. Garcia

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