Recently, owners of an upscale North Indian restaurant chain in Bengaluru and Mumbai we spoke with, told Hungry Wheels they planned to move to a mobile-cloud-kitchen model: a central commissary kitchen will supply food to a network of twenty mobile-only kitchens, where it can be reheated and delivered. (They will continue to operate 10% of the brick-and-mortar locations as well, the locations where they own the real-estate.)
The restaurant industry in the country have been experimenting with LOGOUT (NRAI) or off-platform methods, such as employing in-house, neighbourhood delivery runners, or fulfilling pickup orders through point-of-sale apps. Legacy and higher-end restaurants brands, now offer meal kits and prepackaged food – young restaurateurs don’t think for a second about using aggregators, as in their experience during Covid19 this has become a highway robbery with what they charge, percentage-wise, one restaurateur told us. People in restaurants work so hard, and the margins are so slim. It’s an implicit class thing: blue-collar workers, but the margins are going to the software developers.
During the pandemic “Restaurants are the new manufacturing of India, in every town and city, little factories producing food,” he said. “I believe the time for mobile cloud-kitchens is now, they can help someone out of a job establish a brand, that has no headaches of the real-estate model. Restaurants are not going anywhere. Everything is going to reopen. What might change is how it gets to you.” Mobile restaurants are a little surreal: the shape-shifting nature of brands and menus; the creation of the spontaneous, collective, social dimensions of dining outdoors; the merging of user experience with human labour, like a culinary alchemist.
Mobile Cloud Kitchens are creating the “Fifteen-Minute City”.
In Paris, Mr. Hidalgo, ran for re-election on the platform of a “Fifteen-Minute City”: a plan for Parisians to access commerce, health-care services, education, and the workplace within a fifteen-minute stroll or bike ride from their front doors. Portland and Melbourne have pursued similar “twenty-minute neighbourhood” initiatives, which aim to allow residents to meet a range of needs within a short distance. These all represent a turn away from reliance on privately owned vehicles, and from the “Euclidean” zoning of the twentieth century, in which cities were carved up according to use, fostering sprawl and exacerbating segregation and inequality. Land-use regulations often preclude convenience: even densely populated residential neighborhoods in urban areas can find themselves without pharmacies or grocery stores. The pandemic has intensified these inequalities, particularly for those whose access to basic resources is contingent on public transportation. Stocking up is a car owner’s game. There is something utopian about Hungry Wheels’ project, which inspires visions of greener, less congested, more accessible cities, in which zero-emission fleets zip around and people congregate for cocktails in rooftop gardens, planted atop defunct parking structures or in public parks.
Hungry Wheels is also speaking to operators who are considering plans for drive-in movie theatres, open-air retail and drive-in mobile restaurant parks in urban centres and on highways.
Hungry Wheels believes open-air and outdoor experiences industry is set to boom, and than ever, we all now need to spend more time with nature.