Home / Industry / Retail /  Rebel Foods bets on robotics, A/B testing to scale food biz

BENGALURU : Online food delivery brand Rebel Foods, which pivoted from an offline quick service restaurant (QSR) brand to a full-fledged cloud kitchen model, is betting heavily on robotics and kitchen automation to bring down dependability on the human workforce, said a top company executive.

Soumyadeep Barman, chief product officer, and co-founder said that the firm currently has 10 different robotics units across its kitchens, and more than 35 different in-house tech products such as IoT enabled deep-fryers and a sensor-enabled quality check station which helps keep consistency and taste profiles at check.

Apart from tech integrations across its kitchens, it also employs a comprehensive research and development process for its 15 food brands from biryanis to coffee.

Barman said in an interview that Rebel Foods has adopted the standard A/B testing format used by online software giants such as Facebook and Google, and implemented the testing strategy for its food brands to increase customer satisfaction.

Since 2011, the cloud kitchen brand has grown from just five QSRs in Mumbai to more than 3,000 kitchen locations across the country.

Rebel Foods grew from its earlier avatar ‘Faasos’ to a multi-brand food firm which currently houses more than 15 brands such as Behrouz Biryani, Oven Story Pizza, Sweet Truth, Slay Everyday, Firangi Bake, Mandarin Oak, and others. The startup also has overseas presence in the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and London.

According to Tina Mansukhani Garg, chief executive of marketing and branding agency Pink Lemonade, the cloud kitchen model allow startups to experiment at a lower cost and gradually build scale multiple food brands in line with market expectations. This has helped Rebel Foods in customizing its food brands ensuring local palate and taste preferences are being met across different countries, Garg added.

However, the cloud kitchen segment is a highly contended space in India with large restaurant aggregators such as Swiggy and Zomato also present. Aggregators have been struggling to keep their cloud kitchen business afloat especially after covid-19 wiped out revenues in the hospitality industry.

Garg pointed out that most restaurant aggregators had to shift focus onto delivering groceries and essential services during the lockdown, but cloud kitchen brands like Rebel Foods and Freshmenu, were already running at low operational costs and had a consistent focus on profitability across kitchens by means of maximum utilisation of space.

“As a result, these (cloud kitchen) brands stood more resilient to the slowdown in the food delivery business and were also able to quickly adapt to the pulse of the market," she added.

In 2015, when Rebel Foods opened its first cloud kitchen, technologies such as robotics and automated machinery had already been prevalent across QSR kitchens, but it had to automate not just preparation of food but also last-mile delivery service.

“As we started adding new brands to existing cloud kitchens, we made sure that we are able to execute and deliver orders with the same manpower, and without increasing manpower in our kitchens" Barman added.

As soon as an order is received at the kitchen, the startup’s propriety automation system flashes the order details on a screen and the kitchen chef can also view data points such as the customer's previous order and cooking preferences, as well as the previous history of ratings. According to Barman, such data points help ensure that each customer is catered to his or her preferences and taste profile.

For example, if an order comes in for a Mutton Ghosht biriyani, the entire recipe for that biryani is flashed on the screen. And after the order is prepped by the chef, it goes to a quality control station, which is equipped with a thermal camera, probes and a scanner, that checks for size, weight, and appearance of the finished dish.

During this entire process, a proprietary fleet of smart devices such as auto fryers, auto stirrers, auto baking statins, and process monitoring stations which are based on robotics and visual AI come into play to ensure that each dish retains its specific taste and consistency profile, Barman added.

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