Daniela Izquierdo, CEO and co-founder at Foodology. Photo: Foodology/Courtesy

The face behind the ghost kitchens taking over Colombia and Mexico: Foodology

The cloud kitchen startup reached 1 million orders across its operations in both countries

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Colombian entrepreneur Daniela Izquierdo has always been passionate about food and the restaurant industry. She started cooking right after high school, but followed a path far from the kitchen soon after it. She majored in Industrial Engineering at Universidad de Los Andes, in 2015, and, thinking cooking was just a hobby, she worked at an investment bank and then McKinsey consultancy before going to Harvard for a MBA.

“I was fortunate enough to take the only class about the restaurant industry at Harvard and it was during this class that I started thinking about how to develop a business model that could take advantage of the growing delivery market and the fact that restaurants are going virtual. I could eliminate the things that I didn’t like about restaurants, which were very risky [because they bet on one single brand and menu] and they didn’t use any tech,” she told LABS, in an interview. 

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It was in this class that she met Juan Guillermo Azuero, who became her partner at Foodology, a platform that develops and operates virtual restaurant brands, and was created with a focus on the delivery market in Latin America. The duo founded the company in June 2019. 

In April 2020, they won a $75,000 award from the Harvard Business School for new ventures. “It was great because it basically gave us validation of the business model and also got us a lot of interest from investors,” she recalled. Mid last year, Foodology raised a $4 million Seed round.  

The funding helped the firm to scale, and recently it reached 1 million orders prepared across its operations in Colombia and Mexico (a market where the platform debuted four months ago). Since its inception, Foodology opened over 25 cloud kitchens, equivalent to 125 restaurants’ brands, in eight Latin American cities.

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Mexico is a very big and interesting market. It’s very fragmented in terms of the number of restaurants and most of them are mom-and-pops or independent restaurants,” said Izquierdo. The startup has been reporting monthly growth rates of over 80% in the country. Next month, Foodology will spread its wings to Lima, Peru; it targets Brazil for 2022. 

Foodology’s packaging. Photo: Foodology/Courtesy

Izquierdo explains that the fast growth scale is related to the platform’s business model. Foodology’s restaurant brands are available through delivery apps; they are operated from dark kitchens, which do not have dine-in services, and, therefore, have their costs and production capacity optimized. According to Izquierdo, Foodology is capable of launching a new restaurant brand in less than two weeks, sharing the same dark kitchen among several brands.

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The platform is eyeing a Series A round shortly, as it intends to build a team of at least 20 people in Brazil by next year. Today, counting Colombia and Mexico, Foodology has 350 employees. The startup inspires itself in RebelFoods from India, which now has a $2 billion valuation. Jaydeep Barman, RebelFoods’ CEO, is also one of Foodology’s mentors and advisors. 

To guide and drive its growth, the food tech startup collects data on user preferences to deliver better customer experiences. “We build technology that allows us to identify market trends, which in turn guides the development of new products and brands, making sure consumers receive an amazing experience at home,” added Izquierdo. Under Foodology’s brands, there are pizza, salad, breakfast, and more. 

“The food tech market in LatAm is very big and consumers are looking for diversity when it comes to food. We got here by expanding our geographic footprint and the number of brands within the kitchens.”

Foodology’s kitchen. Photo: Foodology/Courtesy

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Izquierdo believes Foodology will be able to close the year with nearly 1.6 million orders since the startup’s foundation, and about 180,000 orders per month (today it delivers about 100,000 orders per month), but the goal is even bigger: to be the leader of the $20 billion delivery market in Latin America