It seems that our hard-working Millennials don’t have as much time to cook as the previous generations and are therefore more likely to eat out, according to a 2017 study by Bankrate. Those surveyed, eat out or order in food approximately five times a week. Around 29% also said that they bought coffee about three times a week. 

This spending trend is positive for the Food and Beverage (F&B) industries, giving them much hope for the future. Being a tech-savvy generation, Millenials are also very open to using foodtech to support their dining needs, making this sector of industry an area to watch. 

Now, with COVID-19 playing havoc on our ability to eat out, sit in cafes sipping coffee and even making grocery shopping more difficult, foodtech is coming into its own. From cloud kitchens to automation in dining, the food industry is changing, but not as rapidly as you would think. While other sectors such as fintech and edtech are seeing new players disrupting old ways, restaurants, cafes and bars are slower to adopt new technology other than joining food delivery services. 

Technology-driven disruption is still on a relatively small scale, but perhaps the current pandemic will change that. We take a look at some of the tech startups in Southeast Asia that are hoping to shake things up and move foodtech to the next level in the region.

Easy Eat

Image courtesy of Facebook

Having originated in India, today Easy Eat has a strong presence in Singapore and Malaysia as well. Easy Eat offers in-restaurant dining services that speed up processes, provide more in-depth information on menu items, and collect and analyse data to help F&B companies better meet their consumer’s needs through automation in dining. 

Using Artificial Intelligence (AI), Easy Eat’s objective is to make eating out more interactive, help restaurants strategise and provide a smoother dining experience. The AI-backed system remembers customer’s preferences, any allergies or dietary needs enabling more personalisation of menu options. 

The product has won some support in its home country –late last year; the company secured some pre-series A funding through Vernalis Capital and other VCs and angel investors. 

CloudEats

Also known as a shared or communal kitchen, a cloud kitchen doesn’t belong to one brand or type of food. Companies such as CloudEats in the Philippines are offering meal deliveries from cloud kitchens, reducing costs by using these virtual restaurants and helping scale the number of food items on the menu. 

They raised $1.4 million USD in seed funding recently. At present, due to COVID-19, they have switched their operations to providing meals to frontline workers and are encouraging the public to sponsor the food.

Kopi Kenangan 

As one of the world’s biggest coffee bean growers, Indonesia is a haven for all who crave caffeine. Homegrown chain Kopi Kenangan (Coffee Memories), which offers a grab-and-go service from its 324 locations in Indonesia is gaining popularity. Their business model focuses on small shops (no more than 20 square meters in size) rather than the traditional sit-down cafes. 

Amidst lockdowns due to the pandemic, the chain has experienced an increase in its online and delivery sectors. Moving from the traditional coffee shop set up to a more fluid, online service has helped the people of Indonesia feed their kopi addictions from the safety of their homes. 

Buoyed by a recent injection of funding thanks to a Series B round to the tune of $109 million USD, the firm is confident they will continue to prosper.

Even when the world returns to full functionality after the global pandemic has subsided, those pushing the boundaries in foodtech will continue to thrive. Our world is changing; how we interact with businesses has altered even faster than we imagined. 

Tech startups in Southeast Asia were already moving in this direction, but the COVID-19 crisis has acted as a catalyst to expedite this pivot towards a more contactless society. Soon, ordering food from automated cloud kitchens with AI interfaces might become an everyday experience. 

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