Founded in Barcelona in 2018, Food Haven is one of Spain’s most ambitious and innovative cloud kitchens. The business was created to elevate the customer’s food delivery experience - a mission which Food Haven takes very seriously. The dark kitchen currently has 4 virtual brands, which answer local consumer needs, and has figured out a way to package their products in the best way for both the environment and the customer. 

After having been in business for only roughly 6 months, navigating the Barcelona food delivery waters, it’s time for the virtual restaurant to reflect on their experience. José Fabregat, co-founder and CEO of Food Haven, talks about ghost kitchens and the delivery landscape today and in the future.

 

What made you decide to start a virtual restaurant?

“My partners and I have always been interested in the food industry. As a matter of fact, the first time we thought about doing something in the food industry was 6 years ago in London. The concept was pasta to go. We also thought about opening a Mexican restaurant in Barcelona. We never ended up pursuing those ideas because the yields of a traditional restaurant concept were just too low. The investment is too high and there are too many intangibles that decide the fate of the investment.”

“A few years ago, we stumbled upon a virtual kitchen in NYC. We realized that such a concept would allow us to pursue our interest in the food business without suffering the risks that come with starting a regular restaurant.”

 

What are your thoughts on the food delivery landscape in Barcelona?

“Relative to the rest of the world, Spain is not the most attractive country for food delivery (and for a cloud kitchen, specifically) for many reasons: Spaniards have very high quality standards when it comes to food and cooking is part of the Spanish DNA, so abandoning the kitchen completely is still going to take some time.

Kitchen staff preparing sushi for delivery or takeawayFinally, most Spaniards tend to consider only three genres of food for delivery: burgers, sushi and pizza. With only these three types of cuisines, there are big players competing in this space already and there aren’t any niche markets. In addition, the ingredients needed to prepare all three types of food (burgers, sushi and pizza) are not very synergy-friendly for a cloud kitchen.”

“However, food delivery in Barcelona is growing fast. People are becoming more and more inclined to use food delivery apps and online ordering. The big delivery platforms are strongly investing in generating awareness and in acquiring users which, in turn, helps companies like mine.”

 

How do you see the industry evolving in Spain in the future?

“I think it's going to take some time for the food delivery industry to experience real transcendental changes in Spain. In the short run, we believe we will see a push of the needle. We foresee the following trends:

- Customers will become aware of the fact that they can order other options other than burgers, pizza and sushi, and venture towards different genres of food from trusted vendors; 

- Food delivery orders will continue to increase with the rise of VR, Media Content Services such as Netflix, and Gaming; 

- We will start to see more dedicated delivery restaurants like us. 

“In the long run, our team firmly believes that food delivery will be cheaper than the overall cost of cooking at home and even having a kitchen! We believe delivery costs will end up being extremely low due to the high volume of orders (i.e. delivery platforms will deliver several orders with the same delivery guy instead of 1 order per delivery guy). Delivery costs will be even lower with the progression of technology, such as drones providing automated delivery services."

"We also believe that the use of big data owned by the delivery platforms will enable and encourage catered delivery meals on a daily, weekly or monthly basis (i.e. in using data collected from customers’ smartphones, platforms such as Uber Eats could easily track their exercise, eating and life patterns to provide meal plan solutions for a healthy, balanced nutrition. Recurrent meal plans would, in turn, boost delivery orders). Lastly, and in consequence of the above, we believe there will be a change in apartment layouts, where they won’t include kitchens at all."

“We are more likely to see this start happening in highly dense cities such as Shanghai, Tokyo, Beijing and NYC. The rest of the world will follow.”

 

So do you believe that food delivery is here to stay?

“For the reasons I mentioned earlier, the food delivery industry will continue to grow. If you still need more convincing, then just look at the most obvious trend that is happening now: people's behavioral patterns are changing and evolving at a fast pace. And although cultural differences may exist across societies, there's one medium that connects us all: the internet. Like it or not, most of the communication today is already happening through a mobile device, laptop, pc, or tablet. We spend way more time communicating with others through email, Whatsapp, Instagram and so on than in-person. Even at work, Slack and other online tools have us talking to people sitting next to us without actually having to talk to them! Phone calls to service providers are being replaced with apps, and we are socializing with people more and more using technology from the comfort of our homes. Food delivery is a perfect fit in this new reality.”

Group of young people having dinner outside

 

Does Food Haven mainly cater to the millennial generation, which is considered the biggest driving force behind food delivery?

“Food Haven is a company with a clear vision. We really want to make a difference in how a customer experiences food delivery. Our goal is to have customers feel like they have a trusted partner that will cook for them with high quality standards (for every single meal, if desired!). We seek to be innovative with our cooking process as well as with our packaging to ensure the food gets delivered in the best possible condition. We’ve patented some of the packaging for that purpose. Our food is made for people that want to eat good quality food at home, despite their age or generation.” 

“It is true though, that certain genres of food are more inclined to be ordered by Millennials and Gen Z in Barcelona, such as the more newly introduced genre Poke. It is also true that for the most part, these generations are more likely to be using delivery apps on their smartphones.”

 

Do you have any thoughts on the ongoing food trends, like the rise of vegan food, sustainability concepts, etc.?

“It would be foolish of me not to take into consideration the big food trends that are happening now. However, it's difficult to know which trends are going to stay and which trends are going to go. We always have to be prepared to change our menu at the drop of a hat. That’s another good thing about virtual kitchens - they allow us to be agile and to adapt.”

Hanai Poke by Food Haven“On a side note, I’d like to add that at Food Haven, we are very concerned about the amount of waste that grocery stores and the restaurant industry generates. One of the reasons we created Food Haven was to fight the fact that as much as one third of the world's food production goes to waste. Having 8 virtual restaurants under one kitchen allows us to create menus that produce less waste. The unused ingredients of one of our restaurants become the ingredients of another one of our restaurants, reducing up to 50% of waste while increasing profitability. The average waste of a traditional restaurant is 50% of edible leftovers. Our goal is to reduce waste to 9% of our total production.”

 

Do you have any insights to share with our readers about how you use the online data that automatically comes with dark kitchens to market your business and optimise it?

“Unfortunately, there's hardly any online data about our customers available. Our customers' data belong to the delivery platforms, and for the most part, the platforms are not generous in sharing customer information with us. The lack of customer data poses a challenge to us when there's an issue with an order. Once we finally realize that something has gone wrong, it’s usually too late to fix it, and the actions we can take to compensate our customers for the issue (such as reach out to him/her and offer a free meal) are limited.”

"Being a cloud kitchen without an actual restaurant space makes marketing vital to us. However, since sales mostly go through third parties such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo, it's hard to measure our marketing campaign’s performance without being able to track the specific customers that are buying from us. As of right now, the only tool we can use to engage and establish a relationship with our customers is through social media platforms such as Instagram.” 

Hanai Poke bowls

 

How do you increase operational efficiency in the kitchen?

“Efficiency is very important but it's easy to be efficient when there are just a few orders coming in. We are focusing on creating restaurant concepts right now and driving sales. We will need to maximize efficiency once we reach a certain amount of orders. Obviously the appropriate integrated software is vital in our daily operations and we are happy that Deliverect, for the most part, takes care of that.”

 

Do you believe that ghost kitchens and traditional restaurants - and maybe even grocers - can coexist?

“I believe dark kitchens will hurt traditional businesses such as grocery shops and of course restaurants. Cooking less at home means not needing as many groceries. I also believe that most grocery shopping will be online just for the sake of convenience in the near future.”

 

What's in store for Food Haven in the short and long run?

“Our plan is to have 8 restaurant concepts in our first store in Barcelona in the next 4 months. So far, we have four: Koby Grilled Burgers, Hanai Poke, The Healthiest Choice, and CottonFish Sushi. By the end of 2020 we will open our second virtual kitchen in Barcelona and our first one in Madrid. In the long run we have our eyes on the UK and the US.”

 

Do you have any tips for dark kitchen start-ups, things that you wish you would've known in advance?

“Well, we are a brand new company and we are still learning as we go! We have a purpose and a vision, and we are trying our best to get there. One takeaway I have from my experience launching Food Haven is that the location of the kitchen was key. My advice would be to pick where you establish the kitchen very carefully. If your location doesn't let you get to your target audience, you don’t have a shot.”

José Fabregat
By José Fabregat

Co-founder & CEO of Food Haven, innovative cloud kitchen in Barcelona