At a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the restaurant businesses severely, food tech startup Rebel Foods says it is witnessing an increasing demand from consumers for healthy food products and services. The Mumbai-based firm, known for brands like Faasos and Behrouz Biryani, is wooing consumers with initiatives that range from offering personalised diet plans and DIY (do-it-yourself) meal kits to providing customers with a live feed of body temperatures for those handling their orders such as cook and delivery person, said Kallol Banerjee, co-founder of Rebel Foods.
“The customer's concerns have shifted since people are worried about what they're eating because of how this virus is spreading,” said Banerjee. “With the new reality of social distancing, even if the lockdown is (lifted), people would still be wary for some more time to go to restaurants and malls,” he said.
As a result, Rebel Foods says, it is witnessing a tremendous amount of interest from hotels and restaurant chains globally for its cloud kitchen model and for forging partnerships in markets such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Southeast Asia. A cloud kitchen is one that does not offer dine-in facility and accepts food orders only through an online ordering system. With over 350 kitchens, Rebel Foods said it is able to deliver food across the nation even under the current circumstances. The firm operates more than 2,200 internet restaurants across 35 cities across the country.
The company, which is backed by investors such as Goldman Sachs, Sequoia and Indonesian ride-hailing company Go-Jek, is now focusing more on health foods, apart from following strict safety and hygiene protocols. With the lockdown leading to increased instances of people experiencing cabin fever, Rebel has launched personalised diet plans under its 500 Calorie Project brand. Under this, customers are provided with diet consultation, weekly and monthly meal plans and nutrition counselling.
Using QR codes, Rebel is also providing customers with a live feed of the body temperatures of those handling their orders such as cook, kitchen executive and delivery person the logs of which is also sent to the customers along with the invoices. Said to be the first in the delivery industry, the tracker is operational in 350 locations across India, UAE and South East Asia.
The firm is also providing daily medical certification across its kitchens and staff. Partnering with telemedicine experts, Rebel conducts daily checks across its kitchens and staff. The initiative involves daily video calls with doctors for staff handling Rebel's kitchens across India, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
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In a bid to encourage customers to cook at home, Banerjee said, Rebel has launched DIY-meal kits by Faasos, a brand that enables consumers to make their meals at home during the ongoing crisis. The kit contains a complete box of raw ingredients along with a recipe to prepare food at home. The focus here is on providing quick home meals for anyone who does not wish to order from outside but prefers cooking. Rebel is also distributing free masks along with the orders, starting with Oven Story, one of its brands which is known for pizzas. The initiative will be extended across all other brands progressively.
“We are probably leading the way in terms of what could be done (in a post-Covid-19 world) and chosen the route of transparency,” said Banerjee.
Rebel's new initiatives come at a time when the company has witnessed at least 30 per cent dip in its overall business as many states across India were completely or partially shut during the lockdown. Though there have been no layoffs at the company till now, the firm said, it is rolling out voluntary pay cuts for senior-level employees.
“Jaydeep Barman (the other co-founder of Rebel) and I are not going to draw any salary till this (pandemic) gets over and we are back to normal,” said Banerjee. “All the effort right now are about having a clearer runway without cutting jobs.”
Rebel has so far raised a total of $331.5 million in funding, including a $50 million round from New York-based hedge fund Coatue Management in April this year.