The future of online food ordering in the GCC
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The future of online food ordering in the GCC

The future of online food ordering in the GCC

Online food ordering has effectively altered the dynamics of the F&B ecosystem


Disruptive technologies have upended the world, with digital adoption and e-commerce at the forefront. As consumers gained comfort with shopping over the internet, online food ordering followed as an organic next step. Customers who grew accustomed to e-shopping expected the same convenience when it came to ordering meals.

Subsequently, the online food delivery segment took flight. This also rallied the evolution of backend technologies.

Foremost among those technologies are cloud kitchens – commercial facilities that produce and deliver food, supported by third-party service providers. They are built on a delivery-only business model, and food brands operating within them are commonly known as virtual restaurants. On the back of their flexibility and scalability, cloud kitchens have swiftly paved the way for a new realm of online restaurants and new brands. Restauranteurs can either expand an existing concept or curate a new virtual brand at minimal costs.

The numbers add up: The global cloud kitchen market, worth $43.1bn in 2019, is estimated to reach $71.4bn by 2027, a report by Allied Market Research suggests. The GCC region has cottoned onto the trend as well, with the UAE reigning as a hotspot for startups in this sector.

“The growth prospects of the cloud restaurant and cloud kitchen industry and ecosystem are huge in the UAE and globally. Cloud restaurants, along with cloud kitchens and delivery apps will continue innovating the customer experience through to 2021 and beyond. The delivery-only foodtech industry is the fastest growing and the most exciting space in food and beverages globally today,” opines Ziad Kamel, CEO of Cloud Restaurants, a Dubai-based delivery-only, online restaurant company.

“Our restaurants are 100 per cent online restaurants, so we don’t have a dine-in service. Currently, we operate our 10 brands in seven cloud kitchens across Dubai and we’re growing rapidly with more brands,” adds Rowan Kamel, its chief brand officer.

In the days and weeks following the Covid-19 outbreak, the online food delivery space witnessed an upsurge due to isolation protocols and operational restrictions at restaurants.

However, this trend promises to gather force in the post-Covid world too, given the scaling demand for international cuisines, widespread internet  connectivity, social media engagement as well as the evolution of the food preparation and ordering system.

“As logistics capabilities and cloud kitchen infrastructure develop, we should be prepared to see delivery apps, cloud kitchens and virtual restaurants extending their geographic reach by operating in new countries, cities, and towns – and not just in the major capitals,” says Kamel.

“We will see brands hyper-targeting customers per delivery radius, addressing very specific demands for the demographics of each delivery zone.

“Even within the same city, a delivery radius in a university town has very different food delivery needs than a delivery radius in a family-only gated community. We will also see international chain restaurants develop their virtual restaurant delivery capabilities to adapt to the online restaurant world or risk becoming irrelevant.”

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