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Fast food: why automated kitchens can be the secret sauce for 10-minute deliveries

Smart ideas can come from anywhere, they say. For Eshwar Vikas, seeing a concrete mixer at a construction site turned out to be the light-bulb moment. That's what inspired him to build Dosamatic, an automated cooking product for restaurants, back in 2015. The machine, which pumps out batter onto a hot pan and spreads it to a preset size and thickness, turns out crispy dosas in minutes.

Vikas's kitchen-automation and robotics startup, Mukunda Foods, offers several such products. It sells an automated wok that dishes out fried rice in two minutes and a machine that cooks frozen momos as quickly. Today, players like Mukunda Foods are enabling the 10-minute-delivery frenzy that has caught on among food-tech players.

Earlier this year, Zomato invested USD5 million in the decade-old startup for a 16.66% stake. The food-tech firm will use Mukunda Foods' products at its food stations from where it plans to start 10-minute deliveries this month. Ola, too, has also started piloting instant food delivery in Bengaluru and is using some of Mukunda Foods' equipment in its kitchens. The pioneer of 10-minute grocery delivery in India, Zepto, has also started delivering packaged food in 10 minutes in a few locations in Mumbai.

With the model picking up, even the trendsetters of quick delivery are looking to make them faster. For instance, Domino's Pizza has started cutting down its delivery time of 30 minutes to 20 minutes across most locations. Jubilant Foodworks, which owns exclusive master franchise rights of the international pizza chain in India, said in February that 60% of its online orders are now delivered in 20 minutes.

But there are some concerns about this model. When Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal announced the 10-minute delivery plan in March, he faced backlash from restaurants and customers over the safety of delivery partners. Another important question raised around the model was about the quality of food. Many asked whether the food will be fresh or simply reheated.

Technology players in the food industry say automation can help in dishing out fresh food within minutes.

Automation adoption

At Mukunda Foods' cloud kitchen in Bengaluru’s Bommanahalli area, the chef prepared shahi paneer in under three minutes in an automated wok. He had kept the base gravy ready and added paneer to it along with some cream and masala for the Wokie machine to whip it out in minutes. It tasted like any paneer dish served at a quick-service restaurant (QSR).


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