Alex Boccara and Gaspard Hambückers. The founders of Kitchenita. Photo: Courtesy/Kitchenita.

Data-driven delivery brands: That's how Kitchenita says it can change the food business

Working in the dark kitchens modality and also scaling the business by franchising its brands to traditional restaurants with idle capacity, the startup has 26 brands in LatAm and plans to debut in Mexico and Peru soon.

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Created in 2019 by two European entrepreneurs — Alex Boccara and Gaspard Hambückers — in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Kitchenita has 26 data-driven delivery brands (virtual restaurants) in Latin America and Spain. The startup was born from their frustration with traditional restaurants and the inability of these businesses to adapt to the online environment. Based on the data publicly available on the web (think Google Business’ reviews to the restaurants’ score in delivery apps, and so on), they promise to be capable of creating virtual venues tailored to each location needs, that is, mapping city areas to identify what customers want to eat, where and at what price.

Kitchenita raised its seed capital in January 2020: a $500,000 round which allowed the startup to start its operations, launch its first brands, and structure a tech-based product. “We realized that most restaurants were (and still are) just replicating their offline offer in the digital world, which means an offline-oriented operation with no digital processes and, therefore, a poor digital experience for customers,” tells Gaspard.

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“These were pre-pandemic times. Three months before the lockdown [and the arrival of COVID-19] in Buenos Aires, we built the city’s first dark kitchen in partnership with Rappi. Two months in, we quickly realized that with $500,000 we would not build many dark kitchens, so we started to focus on creating platform-driven restaurants. That’s when the pandemic hit. We saw Rappi‘s and delivery platforms’ demand skyrocketing and the users’ experience worsening, so we had to change our approach again.”

Alex and Gaspard saw an offering saturation in some parts of the city, while other regions had no offer of specific types of food. “We saw that our approach should be even more data-driven. That’s when Leo Lucianna, our CTO, and his team joined us and helped us create our tech-based operation. We started looking not just at what and where it was offered but at what people were looking for – and how they would like it to be,” stresses Gaspard.

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Kitchenita does this through 75,000 bots (software applications that runs automated tasks over the Internet, with the intent to emulate human activity on the Internet, such as messaging, on a large scale) scanning different sources of public information every minute, which Gaspard says gives the startup 70% to 80% accuracy over the current state of a given demand. Working in the dark kitchens modality and also scaling the business by franchising its brands to traditional restaurants with idle capacity, the company takes advantage of the collective purchase of inputs.

Over 2020 and the first half of 2021, Kitchenita expanded to Chile (Santiago), Colombia (Bogotá), and Spain (it has a master franchise there), creating more than 50 virtual restaurants (more than half of them did not continue). The startup is not really ‘attached’ to the brands it creates. If they work, great; if not, the company knows that it has to move on.

Last year, Kitchenita reached a $ 1 million turnover. It also validated its digital franchise model, which manages digital units of traditional offline kitchens in Argentina. In its home country, Kitchenita currently operates its franchise initiative in Buenos Aires and Córdoba, handling 35,000 monthly orders in both cities, with a monthly turnover of $150,000. Over the last few months, it also signed with five new franchisees in Santiago and two in Bogotá.

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One of Kitchenita’s dark kitchens in Buenos Aires. Photo: Lucía Merle/Courtesy

Kitchenita’s ‘factory’ of delivery brands has only worked so far because the startup has done it side by side with talented chefs and cooks. The startup has something called a ‘food lab,’ where it creates and tests the food concepts inspired by the data it collects (price range, most used ingredients, and other pieces of information regarding a specific food category).

“This stage of the process costs around $500. After a month of testing the concept created by our food lab, we decide if it is worth continuing or not, that is, if it is worth consolidating the brand. Lastly, we’ve also started to bring in the CPG [Consumer Packaged Goods] industry leaders to test concepts with us, as it also makes perfect sense for them to do so, not just from a marketing point of view but from a customer experience point of view. At the end of day, what we do today is to co-create brands with chefs and CPG leaders, such as Stella Artois, AB InBev or NotCo, to name a few,” summs up Gaspard.

This idea of co-creation also motivated Kitchenita to seek out restaurants, dark kitchens, and food entrepreneurs as partners. “There are more than 2 million kitchens in Latin America, many of them with idle capacity, so why go out and build new kitchens?”.

In March, Kitchenita secured its pre-Series A (and second-round ever), of $3 million, with funds such as FJ Labs, Unpopular VC, Newtopia, Flambeau Ventures, Magma Partners, and Xochi Ventures.

Kitchenita is using the new funding to prepare its debut in Mexico City and Lima (Peru) in July and October, respectively. With that, it intends to have 30 brands in its portfolio, and also strengthen its technology for franchisees – the startup‘s plan is to reach the end of 2022, serving 200 franchisees in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.

“We are launching next month our first celebrity chef brand with a LatAm 50 Best chef in Colombia (homemade, comfort food) in parallel to another launch in Chile with one influencer and chef (vegan concept),” Gaspard tells LABS, adding that the debut in Mexico, set to happen in July, will come with the launch of four brands.