In a world where convenience reigns supreme food delivery has taken centre stage, reshaping how we enjoy meals. Today, it is a thriving industry that serves as a lifeline for countless individuals seeking good food without stepping outside their homes. In particular, Dubai stands out as a hub for the industry, where increased competition has led to new benchmarks and record times for swift, efficient delivery.

Even before the acceleration of home delivery due to the Covid-19 pandemic it was reported that three in five people in Dubai, preferred to have their meals delivered to their doorstep rather than in-restaurant dining. Amidst this evolution, Kitopi has also had to evolve; moving from a managed cloud kitchen operator when it started out five years ago to the tech-powered, multi-brand restaurant that it is today. The journey, in part, has been driven by key investments in F&B businesses but also in how the company operates day-to-day.

Speaking to Seamless Xtra recently, Kunal Gupta, Head of Global Supply Chain at Kitopi explained how the brand is continuing to leverage advances in AI and technology to keep up with recent trends but also re-shape how consumers in the Middle East are experiencing food today.

“The advantage of Kitopi is it uses technology end to end,” Gupta says, referring to the demand planning phase right from the time of order placement, the optimization of the kitchen and how quickly the food is ready, and the precise delivery coordination from when the driver arrives. This is all enabled using technology and runs throughout the business something that, he points out, differs from the more traditional players.

“The thing is we are constantly under some sort of time pressure. When it comes to traditional retail, people are asking for same-day delivery, next-day delivery. For us, it’s now 20 minutes. It is getting into that zone where consumers no longer want it the same day, or the same hour. They want it now.”

person doing cook inside kitchen

How it works

To meet this demand Kitopi uses a hybrid model offering both online and dine-in locations. After a brand gets onboarded to its platform, it provides their menu and trains Kitopi’s employees how to cook with recipes so they can cook on its behalf with trained staff. Allowing Kitopi to offer the end-to-end operation for the customer is a central kitchen in each city that it operates. Most of the food-making preparation is done here, while the finishing touches are given at a satellite kitchen, located close to the residential area.

The technology it uses and the way it is used stems from the journey of order placement to the time the food reaches the consumer; which is a two-step process.

“One is the cooking and packing, which happens in our own kitchens,” Gupta says. “Second is when we hand over to the driver and he leaves. We are always trying to see how we can make these two areas more efficient.”

The moment Kitopi receives an order, a driver is also allocated and is given an estimated arrival time of fifteen minutes to the kitchen. On pickup, food must be fresh, steaming hot and immediately ready to go out.  Against such wafer-thin margins, it is no surprise that smart technology has become increasingly integral to the firm as it has scaled in recent years. To meet these goals, the company has built and refined its own in-house Smart Kitchen Operating System (SKOS) with one central goal: serving more customers in a shorter period of time and as efficiently as possible.

man in black t-shirt holding a cup

Using data to plan ahead

“When it comes to kitchen optimization and ensuring that everything goes out on time a lot of this actually starts with the demand planning phase,” Gupta explains.

“This is where we forecast the menu orders that we will receive at a very precise level. Even though we are still a young company, our data tells us a lot about re-occurring habits so we use our machine learning data model – which gets better day by day. It helps us predict what food is going to come into demand tomorrow, the day after or even the week after. Based on that we can plan our back of house supply chain, what ordering we need to do, and how much stock we need to cover.”

He adds: “It comes down to things like numbers and seasonality, time of the day and the week and so on. Obviously you have your peaks during lunch, you have a drop during the day, you have a pick up again in the evening, so it varies. But that’s why it’s important to have an algorithm to predict that.”

No journey is devoid of challenges and the past year has posed its fair share for Kitopi and the wider industry. Gupta acknowledges the volatility in supply chain logistics post-COVID, pointing out the challenges of cost consistency and consumer demand fluctuation.

“Cost and the consistency of supply chain has been a challenge for the last few years, especially post COVID. There has been a lot of disruption in the supply chain logistics industry. Price consistency and inflation are something we have had to overcome and there have been some challenges on the sourcing side. Even on the consumer side, we’ve seen that the market is becoming more and more competitive. Consumers want the fastest possible service and the minimum amount to pay which impacts processes.”

As conversation turns to consumer trends, Gupta highlights an emerging focus on food sourcing transparency and sustainability. Today’s consumers, he notes, seek not only the knowledge of what they’re consuming but also the ethical and ecological implications of their choices. Kitopi’s response to this trend involves sourcing locally produced, sustainable ingredients – an approach that aligns with a broader industry movement toward mindful consumption.

“One of the focuses that, we as an organization are doing again, on a sustainability front is we are trying to source locally produced, fresh produce. People are now looking at the carbon footprint of the things that you’re sourcing and if this sourcing is sustainable. So the consumer is becoming more and more aware about not only how it is done, but where is it done. I think that’s a trend which is only going to get stronger in the next twelve months.”