On June 18, homegrown fast food giant Jollibee Foods Corp. (JFC) opened the first of future strings of “cloud kitchens” in Chicago as part of its P7-billion global business restructuring plan given that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t set to end anytime soon. Cloud kitchens, also known as virtual, dark or ghost kitchens, are unmarked food production facilities where brands rent a space to carry out services exclusive for delivery and takeout only.

Jollibee Chicago River North Cloud Kitchen efficiently reaches customers in high-density Metro Chicago neighborhoods, such Lincoln Park, The Loop and Chinatown, from 8AM to 10PM daily. This milestone for the international fast food chain was made possible through Kitchen United, a leading innovator in US cloud kitchen city spaces that helps brands gain revenue through the introduction of new markets and cheaper capital outlays for offsite services.

“Thanks to the unique cloud kitchen format of this new location, we are able to adapt to the current difficult environment of the pandemic while still growing our delivery capability and our off-premise business in a key market. Now, Metro Chicagoans will be able to experience the joy of our signature offerings from the comfort and safety of their own homes,” says Maribeth Dela Cruz, president of JFC North America-Philippine brands.

When working with a cloud kitchen business model, there are lower operational and upfront costs as high rent, labor and interiors are less of a concern compared to the traditional restaurant setup. To set up one’s own cloud kitchen, location, marketing and partnerships are the essential aspects businesses need to address in order to establish this virtual restaurant format on solid ground.

As of April, Jollibee has 5,945 stores worldwide, 3,317 of which are in the Philippines. In an effort to streamline non-performing branches and invest in strengthening and increasing the capacity of its delivery, take-out and drive-services, JFC plans to strategize the number of its restaurants in certain locations and the resources that go through it. Implementing health and safety protocols, investing in e-commerce and technology (such as through the installation of mobile applications), and establishing more cloud kitchens are also in the works as the company braces for further decline this 2020. 

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