‘Cloud kitchen vertical new engine of growth for next three years’: Sanjay Vazirani, Foodlink

Industry Watch | September 30, 2021 | Interview

Sanjay Vazirani Foodlink F&B Holdings Art of Dum

Having managed destination weddings and corporate events around the world, and curated culinary experiences for some of India’s elite families, Foodlink F&B Holdings India, the niche events catering enterprise, forayed into cloud kitchens with ‘Art of Dum’ in Dubai in March 2021 and now, Mumbai.

The gourmet delivery kitchen brand offers an at-home luxury dining experience replete with premium packaging with emphasis on sustainability.

EVENTFAQS Media reached out to Sanjay Vazirani, Chairman and Managing Director, Foodlink F&B Holdings India, to know more about the launch of Art of Dum in Mumbai, catering for celebrity events, challenges faced during pandemic and long-term plans.

You launched Art of Dum in Dubai earlier this year and have now forayed into Mumbai. How has the response been in Dubai to your cloud kitchen concept? What potential do you see in Mumbai?

Art of Dum is a uniquely designed cloud kitchen experience which is not just flavorsome but sustainable. We have had a very gratifying response in Dubai from the very second month of launch. The city has been very welcoming to the concept and has literally positioned it as a disruptor in the crowded cloud kitchen space. This style of cooking takes hours of preparation and is known for its level of finesse and hence this authentic format is unheard of in the delivery space. In addition, the packaging has received rave reviews for being very stylish and experiential yet sustainable.

We see a huge potential in Mumbai. The authentic Awadhi style of preparation and the sustainable and environmentally friendly packaging is giving a unique experience to the customers. We are planning to scale it to 50 kitchens across various locations across the country.

How else were you dealing with the pandemic? How did it affect the business?

The Covid regulations in Maharashtra have been most stringent especially with respect to outdoor catering events, so considering the limitations, we took the following initiatives

- We leveraged on food delivery options – cuisines that we cater to at events that are not so easily available at restaurants.

- We associated with various NGOs, Mumbai Police and local authorities like Tehsildar’s office and land survey office to sponsor food to the needy communities via our initiative ‘The Khichadi Project; serving a hearty serving of classic khichdi packed with nutrients from pulses and vegetables as an effort to help the migrant labourers in the city, serving about 1,00,000 meals per day.

- We engaged with our patrons in the corporate sector to send food parcels to their employees since they could not hold their live key organisational events like milestone celebrations, annual days, etc. Similarly we also sent curated meal packages and food hampers to guests that couldn't travel for social events and weddings.

- Our teams across Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Delhi and Dubai worked in synergy to ensure we provide unique solutions to our guests who were looking at celebrating their milestone events in long distance formats, since the regulations were relatively less stringent in cities outside Maharashtra. We helped guests to divide their celebrations in groups of 100 across two or three events so that they can celebrate in accordance with the regulations and also ensure none of their guests feel like they were left out of the celebrations.

Besides the above, our customers have comfort in the fact that our entire staff is vaccinated now. Through the pandemic the team got tested for Covid prior to each event with 100 percent adherence to the standards of sanitisation, safety gear, and social distancing norms as per our stringent Food Safety Management System. Operationally, we also had acrylic screens between the buffet tables and guests to ensure that the distancing norms are met with.

Share some insights on your experiences of catering celebrity weddings in Covid times. How was it different?

There wasn’t any celebrity wedding done during this time. Though we did vegan food for Salman Khan’s intimate birthday celebrations.

How are the bookings looking for the end-2021 / early 2022 wedding season? How does it compare to the last wedding season and the 2019-’20 season before that?

The upcoming season looks very promising, almost as good as 2019-’20 in terms of number of events although the guest list size has gone down substantially. Some clients are keeping it open ended in terms of size of guest list to take a final call closer to the event date on the basis of the new guidelines issued by the government.

What are the other initiatives planned for Foodlink and Art of Dum?  What's the expansion plan for the latter across India?

Foodlink is expanding across UAE and India across catering, restaurants and cloud kitchen domains. We have used the lockdown as an opportunity to massively focus on product Innovation and expansion.  We have rolled out catering in UAE and Delhi and are looking at establishing a base in South India. With ‘Art Of Dum’ we plan to open 50 outlets in eight cities in India.

How big as part of the overall business do you think cloud kitchens will be for Foodlink? Can it become bigger than catering?

The cloud kitchen vertical will be our new engine of growth for the next three years. We are very sure that it will help Foodlink to achieve new heights that we as a Foodlink family will be proud of.

After launching ‘Art of Dum’ in Dubai and Mumbai, niche events caterer sees scope for 50 such kitchens delivering at-home luxury dining with sustainable packaging in eight Indian cities.

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