Sagar Kochhar, co-founder of Rebel Foods and chief of EatSure shares how innovation in tech & marketing fueled their ascent in India's F&B sector.
Have you ever indulged in a Faasos wrap after a long workday or ordered pizzas from Oven Story or burgers from Wendy's when hunger struck? Perhaps you've craved Biryani and chosen Behrouz Biryani for a cricket match night. What you may not know is that all these brands are under the umbrella of 'Rebel Foods.'
Rebel Foods is an Indian online restaurant company which operates 45+ brands including Faasos, Behrouz Biryani and Oven Story. It is the largest cloud kitchen restaurant chain in the world, operating more than 450 cloud kitchens in 10 countries, as of April 2022. The brand has very recently entered the Saudi market with three cloud kitchens.
According to Sagar Kochhar, Rebel Foods' co-founder and chief of EatSure, their success can be attributed to the fusion of technology with exceptional food quality.
Speaking about the brand’s journey Kochhar says that before 2012 there was not a single homegrown food brand dominating the market and they wanted to change that. While there were already established brands for items like pizzas and burgers, they started off with wraps.
They captured the wraps market successfully with Faasos and already had almost 40 stalls by 2014.
“That’s when we realised that some of the really successful brands in the space have taken hundreds of years to reach there.”
Kochhar emphasises the importance of understanding customer preferences and the significance of delivery in their business. He says considering the real estate prices in India, they were the first ones to digitise food ordering in India.
“We saw that almost 70% of our orders were happening through delivery. It hit us that if most of our orders are coming from delivery and there is sufficient brand awareness, we pioneered the world’s first cloud kitchens in cities like Ahmedabad, Bhopal etc. We started taking up 700-1000-foot kitchens and started taking up orders from there. The term ‘cloud kitchen’ also known as ‘dark kitchen’ has emerged from Rebel Foods,” says Kochhar.
From 2014-2016 they scaled up to 160 locations and started to become the largest wrap operator in India.
Kochhar says it hit them that the F&B industry is not divided across demographics, unlike the other industries. “The opportunities are not limited to becoming the largest burger brand or the largest pizza brand. One day I might want to have a home-cooked meal, the other day I would order burgers for friends and the very next hour I would be gulping chai at a tapri. That’s when we realised that we can scale in a lot more categories with the concept of cloud kitchens.”
People often associate a food category with a brand. For example, Pizza Hut and Dominoes are for pizza, and McDonald’s is for burgers. Rebel Foods then started doing the multi-brand play with Behrouz Biryani, Oven Story Pizza etc. It established each of them differently and invested in their branding and storytelling. “There was no looking back after this. We launched different brands for different needs,” he adds.
Shedding light on the success of Behrouz Biryani, Kochhar says they wanted to enter the group indulgence segment after catering to individuals with Faasos. “We positioned ourselves as a premium Biryani brand for group indulgences. We did a lot of story-telling for the brand.”
Kochhar says Rebel Foods is built on the back of three pillars- great recipes, tech stack and supply chain. They inculcate these in all their brands. He says building a food brand without visible kitchens has its challenges, and not all brands have been successful. They emphasise storytelling, unique product naming, and challenging branding norms.
In 2020, the brand acquired the master franchise for Wendy's, the US fast-food chain that had been trying to scale in India for a few years. Rebel Foods' kitchens are often shared among different cuisines, allowing them to create multiple brands with distinct positioning and offerings.
“We are not only building our own brands but also taking over some beautifully built brands. We are also kind of acting like a distribution partner for for brands like Mad Over Donuts, Naturals etc" .
“We are trying to build an internet platform that offers you the highest food brand in every corner of the world. Whether we do it with our own brands or partner with the other great brands and get them onto the Rebel OS and scale them.”
Rebel Foods also has expansion plans and has very recently entered the Saudi market. It has also expanded into the UAE and London.
“We entered London with a very differentiated strategy, we are also trying to question whether cloud kitchens are needed at all. For example, Behrouz is available in 50-60 locations in London and only 6 have been set up by us, but using the Rebel OS stack, we have been able to scale Behrouz with the help of the stack and our partners. We offer them the three pillars (Recipe, tech and supply chain) and scale them.
As per Kochhar, they don’t have competition in the market as such because they have carved a category for themselves and pioneered it. “There are a lot of things that are not being solved in the F&B space both offline and online. While the aggregators have done great work, their job seems to be dropping food from the restaurant to homes. Food ordering business requires a much stronger stack which we offer,” he says.
Overall, Rebel Foods has leveraged technology and a multi-brand approach to become a major player in the global food delivery industry, with a focus on cloud kitchens and unique branding strategies.
The brand’s latest adventure in EatSure- is positioned as a digital FoodCourt, This lets you order from various restaurants across categories under one single order. Allowing consumers to mix and match from multiple trusted restaurants in a single order.
The brand has opened 5 smart food kitchens across 15+ brands under a single roof. They plan to expand to 100 more locations over the next two years.
Kochhar was speaking to Sreekant Khandekar, Co-founder and CEO, afaqs! at the 2023 edition of the Startup Brand Summit powered by Times Network.