Kitchen Robotics Company Mukunda Foods has come to the aid of growing Cloud Kitchens and QSR brands to prepare global cuisines dishes with minimum human intervention. Eshwar K Vikas, Co-Founder & CEO, Mukunda Foods, share their journey with us -
How did you come up with the idea of automating kitchen solutions?
Sudeep and I co-founded a QSR during our college days with an aim to build the McDonalds of Indian food. We received a positive response from the customers, encouraging us to expand more. However, things didn't remain the same, and we couldn't match the quality and consistency of the food when we scaled.
That was a defining moment for us, and we started using our engineering capabilities and developed our first fully automatic dosa machine, i.e. Dosamatic. The idea was that every brand's outlets should serve Dosas with the same quality and consistency. Dosamatic also helped QSRs reduce spillage and dependency on skilled labour costs, and as a result, they could scale fast while reducing the NPS.
The cloud kitchen sector is booming with new brands coming up in the market. With the capital investment being high, how will the brands adapt to the current needs?
The cloud kitchen sector started seeing a hike, especially in a post-Covid world because of the low investment cost. The food taste and the delivery time in cloud kitchens are on high priority as they can't be compensated with service or the ambience of a dine-in restaurant.
Mukunda ventured into Kitchen As A service (KAAS) with the brand name Nucleus by Mukunda Foods to offer fully operational and automated kitchens to food brands that wish to scale with minimal CAPEX and workforce. We partner with food brands to prepare the food basis on their set recipe. The time saved can be utilized in focussing on order generation and getting them delivered.
Kitchen Automation can help increase competitiveness through improved efficiency, productivity, and cost savings. The food preparation time goes down, and the brand can deliver the best quality food.
How is the brand solving the major concern of repetitive and strenuous cooking processes?
We've spent a significant amount of time automating strenuous and repetitive steps like Wokie. An automatic Wok comes with an automated solution for stirring, tossing, heat control, maintaining speed and temperature.
Similarly, E-Pan is an automatic grilling machine with an intelligent heating system to flip a wrap or a paratha. It can also spread the oil evenly in an accurate quantity and at the right temperature as per the set recipe. The duration in which machines are cooking the orders, the restaurant staff can utilize that time in packaging and customer dealing. The automated solutions also create a safer and hygienic environment due to minimal human intervention. The machines are designed to be easily cleaned and maintained, which also helps maintain hygiene standards.
Is the emergence of robotic solutions in commercial kitchens impacting employment opportunities for chefs?
A machine can smartly prepare the food in the kitchen by following set commands, but a human chef has curated the recipes fed in the system. Wherever Mukunda deploys automation, we spend enough time with their chef to help calibrate their recipes to the machine. Machines are expected to follow recipes and SOPs basis the commands fed in by humans. Good food always results from the chef's magic recipes and the machine's capability to replicate them. We're promoting employment opportunities by using collaborative robots in alliance with the human workforce, unlike the rumours of clawing on them.
Any future-forward technology or innovation that you plan to introduce next? Tell us about your expansion plans.
Fresh Food Vending Machines are the next big technology we're building on. So far, we've always seen tea/coffee/ soup-vending machines at railway stations and cafeterias; however, we're now working on offering a similar but enhanced version for foods like noodles, poha, upma etc. This will make it easier for people using UPI options like Paytm and Google pay, to scan QR codes, pay the amount and collect the food. Our immediate plan is to penetrate international markets, especially the UK and US. They have high demand for functionally and operationally efficient solutions, especially for Asian Foods.
Where do you think the future of kitchen solutions is headed?
Kitchen Automation solutions seem to have a lot of potential and demand in the coming years. With positive signs like the organized market share (standalone and chain) expected to increase from 40% to 54%, the emergence of the delivery only model will add to its demand. Additionally, many food brands are raising funds and consciously plan to use that fund to scale up. The new-age food brands understand the challenges of scaling up and how automation can solve this.
In FY 2019, Mukunda Foods manufactured around 400 machines, and in current FY 21-22, we would be manufacturing four times that number. This trend is set to accelerate.