Food tech startups might be providing their customers with a smoother user experience, easier ordering and faster deliveries, but they aren’t immune from the everyday problems faced by conventional restaurants.
FreshMenu has been fined Rs. 20,500 by the BBMP for not maintaining food and safety norms in its Bellandur kitchen. The municipal body carried out an inspection at the kitchen for several hours on Saturday, during which it found that FreshMenu had violated standards. “The kitchen was unhygienic and we also found that they were not segregating waste,” said Mahesh Kumar, a food inspector with the BBMP.
A local news channel also ran a video which showed the interiors of FreshMenu’s kitchen, which was allegedly unkempt and had open garbage cans. Residents of the area also claimed that FreshMenu was dumping its waste in a nearby drain, which caused the entire area around it to smell.
FreshMenu has been one of the few food tech startups that had survived the bloodbath the sector had seen in 2015. Several companies had entered the food delivery business in that period, but most had struggled to survive, thanks to the high levels of competition and razor-thin margins. SpoonJoy, Dazo, Yumist and Cookaroo had shut down, while Zomato and Foodpanda had fired workers. Most dramatically, the employees of TinyOwl had held its founders hostage when they’d not received their salaries. TinyOwl too had shut down soon after.
FreshMenu, though, had gamely fought on, and with the playing field now having cleared out, is now expanding its operations. The company has moved from its home base of Bangalore to Mumbai and Delhi, and now operates 35 kitchens across the country. FreshMenu has raised more than Rs. 130 crore from investors so far, and over the next 12 months, plans to touch annual revenues of Rs. 300 crore. The company also says it plans to be profitable by 2018.
But FreshMenu is clearly experiencing growing pains as it aims to become a national brand. And unhygienic kitchens is a problem that it can ill-afford — for a brand that is built on the premise of proving fresh and healthy food to discerning customers, getting fined for an unkempt kitchen is not the best look.