Dubai’s GrubTech Offers to “Future Proof” Restaurants

We all know that restaurants have been among the hardest-hit sectors in the pandemic. This massive economic disruption will inevitably drive investment in the technologies that disrupt how restaurant businesses are run. 

A Dubai company called GrubTech appears to be right in this sweet spot. The company just raised $2 million to help scale its product. GrubTech touts a very robust solution.

It promises restaurants a “data-driven approach…to a suite of end-to-end future-proof solutions and streamlining operations for restaurants, cloud kitchens, and virtual brands so that they can continue to thrive in an ever-changing landscape.”

GrubTech claims to be installing its technology in more than 100 locations.

Can Software Save Restaurants?

GrubTech’s main product, GrubONE, according to the company, “uses bi-directional integrated APIs to automatically deploy menus across various channels and automate order capture from food aggregators into a unified and easy to manage dashboard.”

According to its blog, GrubTech also creates “hyper in-kitchen efficiencies through its smart kitchen display system and has integrated with various 3rd party logistics providers and POS systems to expedite and accelerate brand onboarding and activation.

“Additionally, GrubTech has developed a machine-learning driven marketing solution which provides restauranteurs with unprecedented abilities to segment customers and manage digital and social media campaigns.”

So it’s basically an all-in-one package offering operations and marketing, driven by state of the art AI. That’s a lot of sophisticated technology.

Here is the bet GrubTech seems to be making. The restaurant of the future, or arguably the present, faces ongoing upheaval and uncertainty. It will succeed based on its ability to operate at an insane level of efficiency. And restaurants will rely less and less on dine-in customers in the future. Take-out and delivery orders fulfilled with data-driven precision will be the bulk of the business.

The company adds in its blog, “Future modules aim to incorporate the use of robotics to further enhance in-kitchen efficiencies, in addition to IoT sensors to automate appliance monitoring and tracking.”

Ghosts of Kitchens Future

GrubTech’s software is built for cloud kitchens as well as conventional restaurants. Cloud kitchens (also known as ghost kitchens) are designed exclusively for delivery and carry out dining.

Some ghost kitchens are stand-alone operations. Think of a restaurant, just with no dining area.

Others may be arms of delivery apps like Uber Eats or Deliveroo. Multi-location restaurants might also use cloud kitchens as an efficiency move to serve more take away or delivery orders with fewer dine-in locations.

The ghost kitchen phenomenon predates the pandemic. Many believe the pandemic will speed the growth of cloud kitchens as more people prefer consuming high-quality restaurant food via takeout or delivery.

Amazon and Uber founder Travis Kalanick are among those investing in ghost kitchens include

Despite the hype, the early days of the ghost kitchen have including multiple setbacks. Uber Eats for example, recently got out of the ghost kitchen businesses after a two-year experiment in Paris.

In fairness, Uber Eats’ decision may have just been all about making tough cost decisions in a pandemic.

For his part, Kalanick remains committed to Los Angeles-based GhostKitchens. This despite some early fits and starts.

According to a recent article in the Gulf News, Dubai’s nascent ghost kitchen industry has fared well during the pandemic. One reason is adaptations that include adding grocery delivery, which leading ghost kitchen startup Kitopi has done.

Does the World Really Need Ghost Kitchens?

Overall the ghost kitchen concept has its acolytes as well as its skeptics.

In particular, the notion of building a fine-dining brand purely as a ghost kitchen remains unproven. Critics note that the cost savings from not having a physical restaurant will be offset by higher marketing costs. 

What will tip the balance? It depends on whether current dining trends, accelerated but not created by the pandemic, spell doom for the traditional restaurant model.