foodie

Coronavirus boosts cloud kitchens as foodie Asians order in

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Singapore’s Ebb & Flow Group took an unusual route to creating one of its most popular food items: analysing more than 200,000 data points to predict customer preference and potential demand.

The result, launched shortly before the coronavirus sent the city into lockdown, was Wrap Bstrd – wraps with fillings such as chicken satay rice and beef bulgogi, borne from the insight that customers preferred Asian flavours in a fuss-free fashion.

“We were able to combine advanced behavioural data capabilities and pattern analyses with the expertise of our chefs to create a brand and menu that was specifically tailored for our customers,” said chief executive Lim Kian Chun.

“It is Singapore’s first food and beverage brand that is driven entirely by insights derived from artificial intelligence,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ebb & Flow Group is one of a growing number of companies operating restaurant kitchens known as “dark”, “cloud” or “ghost” kitchens, which have no physical presence, and offer delivery-only services from a centralised location through a mobile app.

Often operating out of warehouses and semi-industrial buildings on the outskirts of cities, dark kitchens allow for burgers and biryanis to be made in the same location, and delivered directly to consumers ordering online.

While food delivery was already on the rise in recent years with aggregators such as Zomato, Uber Eats and foodpanda, coronavirus lockdowns and concerns about eating out have precipitated a boom in these services lately, analysts say.

“The cloud kitchen model was already gaining momentum, now it is at a tipping point for the model to be fully utilised because of the shift to at-home consumption,” said Ali Potia, a partner at consulting firm McKinsey.

“We are now starting to see data-driven menu design and pricing for greater personalisation. It

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