Following its USD 415 million Series C investment round, UAE-based cloud kitchen platform Kitopi has become the MENA region’s third billion-dollar company, making it a “unicorn”. HN spoke with Mario Arjan, the company’s managing director, UAE, to learn about the company’s upcoming plans.
What does it mean to you to become the MENA region’s third unicorn?
Given that we were founded just over three years ago, we didn’t dream we were going to achieve such a grand milestone so quickly. Kitopi was founded in January 2018 by four co-founders who wanted to solve a complex problem in an otherwise traditional industry. This investment reconfirms that we’re working on solving the right problem. It is also a huge win for the industry, our region and the startup ecosystem. We hope this also inspires other startups to continue building. We have a lot of work to do, and while we are so excited and proud, we’re already back to our mission of satisfying the world’s appetite.
Among many dark kitchen service providers, what is the key to your success?
Kitopi is the world’s leading managed cloud kitchen platform, and we take care of the entire operations for a restaurant or F&B partner – from the supply chain, staff training, food preparation, delivery to customer experience. We work with over 200 F&B partners, including several globally recognized brands such as Papa Johns, Nathan’s Famous and iHOP. We’ve also diversified our offerings by leveraging our supply chain to include subscription based meal plans and on-demand groceries delivery. A large part of our competitive advantage is due to our proprietary Smart Kitchen Operating System (SKOS). SKOS is a suite of applications that optimizes the performance of our cloud kitchen operations in real time. The solution focuses on delivering a great customer experience across multiple brands in a single kitchen by maximizing operational efficiency. Since launch, SKOS has enabled Kitopi to scale to 200+ brands in 60+ sites over just three years. In this period, our kitchens have been able to double the order volume while reducing kitchen preparation time by 40 percent. One application, for instance, uses data science to predict when drivers will arrive and how long a menu item would take to cook, then auto sequence which items are cooked first, to enhance speed.
Do you believe that with this investment, you have solidified your place as the region’s leading dark kitchen provider?
Kitopi was founded to solve a very complex problem and we never dreamed we’d get to where we are today. What this investment does is reconfirm that we’re on the right path. More importantly, it’s also a commitment to our industry and the region as this round also marks SoftBank Vision Fund 2’s first investment in a UAE-headquartered company. We hope that this inspires other startups to start identifying those complex problems and building and that other large investors follow suit.
Our focus is to continue growing what we’ve already built. We will channel the new funding to fuel our continued expansion within the Middle East and support entry to new markets such as Southeast Asia. We will also continue to innovate and expand our tech stack and grow our strategic restaurant partnerships. More specifically, our plan is to make Saudi Arabia Kitopi’s Middle East headquarters, while Dubai will remain a global head office as it looks to expand into Southeast Asia.