Although much of the restaurant technology chatter is around operations and digital hospitality, the culinary side of restaurant tech deserves an upgrade too. Imagine chefs being able to upload the exact preparation for a popular dish at their restaurant to the cloud. Then, using smart technology, chefs in ghost kitchens can prepare that dish to perfection to be able to send off to hungry food delivery customers. And every time someone places an order, you get a royalty.
If it sounds a little bit like the relationship between a music streaming service and artists, then you’d be on the right path: Nikhil Abraham, cofounder and CEO behind this concept, CloudChef, has made the comparison to Spotify or Apple Music. We spoke with him about how CloudChef works and the implications the technology could have for culinary brands.
In other news this month, Grubhub Direct has dropped delivery fees for restaurants that are using this last-mile service, Chowly has acquired Koala and Nala Robotics is rolling out an all-in-one pizza solution (yes, more pizza robots).
Tech Tracker rounds up what’s happening in the technology sector of the restaurant industry, including news from restaurants, vendors, digital platforms, and third-party delivery companies. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know and why:
CloudChef delivers chef-created meals with smart kitchen co-bots
CloudChef is just getting started as a culinary technology company, and currently delivers food made from top chefs’ recipes in Mumbai, India to the Palo Alto, Calif. area. Combining smart sensor kitchen technology with a delivery food service, the company is scratching an itch of being able to taste food from around the world without having to travel.
“Today, sitting in anywhere in the world, you can have access to any videos, any sort of music that you like, but you cannot consume food in the same way that you consumer content,” Nikhil Abraham, cofounder and CEO of CloudChef said. “You only have access to food that’s close-by. We want to change that. We want consumers to order food on our app or website from any chef in the world.”
Here's how it works: A chef would come to the cloud kitchen in Mumbai (or wherever they open next) and begin to cook one of their dishes in the smart kitchen. The kitchen’s software and ultra-sensitive sensors will be able to tell not just the measurement of ingredients and temperature of the meat, but the precise way to slice the vegetables, the exact moment the meat should be flipped, the correct viscosity for a sauce, and exactly how caramelized the onions are. The cooking data is then translated into a machine-readable recipe that can be executed in any kitchen powered by CloudChef by even a novice cook who can execute the recipes using the “co-bot” technology that won’t let you burn or even slightly overcook the meal.
“Even people who can’t tell the difference between salt and sugar in a kitchen can make recipes that a Michelin-starred chef would not be able to differentiate in a blind taste test,” Abraham said.
So, what’s in it for the chefs? According to Abraham, they get a royalty every time someone orders one of their dishes—3-5% for chefs without a proprietary distribution mechanism and 10-15% for established chefs that can drive the demand themselves. Customers then order your meal through the CloudChef website or through DoorDash (where the listing is Top 20 by CloudChef).
“If you are an Instagram chef who has 300,000 followers and want to drive all your Instagram traffic to CloudChef, you'd be able to make substantially more or the same as YouTubers who make a recipe video and then sell ExpressVPN ads,” Abraham said.
Grubhub Direct orders drops $1.99 delivery fees for restaurants
Back in 2021, to fight critiques of high-percentage commission rates for operators, Grubhub rolled out Grubhub Direct, a commission-free direct ordering platform that lets operators set up direct ordering through their own website and then let Grubhub take care of last-mile delivery. Well, now the third-party delivery platform is trying to sweeten the pot even more by ditching the $1.99 delivery fee charged to Grubhub Direct operator customers.
This perk will be coming soon, along with a few other features like integration with Google business profiles, so operators can use it as their preferred ordering platform method (instead of their own website, for example), and guest checkout, so customers without a Grubhub account can order delivery as well.
With all of these new features, Grubhub is slowly eliminating operator pain points in the third-party delivery space and drawing more customers to online delivery who might not necessarily have a Grubhub account. Grubhub is starting to work more with operators in an attempt to become more of a tech vendor partner.
Uber Eats rolls out customer data privacy features
Customers aren’t just concerned about delivery fees – they also want to know that their data is safe. Uber is rolling out a new feature that shows exactly what a delivery driver sees when they deliver their food. You can view your order as a delivery person and see exactly how much of your personal information is given to the driver, including first name and last initial, and delivery location. A courier can only see your exact address when they are delivering your order, and once that order is complete, they can only see your approximate location.
Chowly acquires Koala
Chowly — a technology company that integrates third-party delivery platforms with POS systems — announced earlier this month the acquisition of guest experience platform, Koala, which helps elevate digital ordering experiences across multiple platforms. Combined, both tech platforms will reach 16,000 restaurant locations.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Koala to the Chowly team,” said Sterling Douglass, co-founder and CEO, Chowly. “Merging these two businesses together represents a major leap forward in the mission of both organizations as we help restaurants navigate today’s complicated digital world. Koala’s open platform meshes perfectly with Chowly’s, while also giving restaurants a simpler experience for their off-premises strategies.”
With the merger of both companies, features will be merged including online ordering, data analytics, and recommendation engines.
Nala Robotics rolls out pizza pickup solution
The latest Nala Robotics innovation is an all-in-one pizza delivery and pickup solution, created in collaboration with Ovention and Hatco. The solution, which was showcased at NAFEM in Orland this year, combines Nala’s automated cooking system with Ovention’s shuttle oven and Hatco’s smart locker system.
Once the robot arm is done pressing the dough, adding the sauce and cheese, and cooking it in the Ovention oven, it can then be sliced, boxed, and stored in a timed and temperature-controlled locker system that can be opened by customers through individual QR codes.
Contact Joanna at [email protected]