July 19, 2024
Chennai startup is improving cafeteria management for companies
Business World Success Stories

Chennai startup is improving cafeteria management for companies

May 17, 2024

Cafeterias have been fraught with challenges—right from planning, purchasing, and preparing, to reducing and eliminating waste, staying on budget, managing stock, and training and educating staff.  While clients had to go through the tedious process of reaching out to caterers, conducting food trials, negotiating rates, and managing communication; vendors struggled with operational challenges and lacked a unified platform for efficient management. To bring consistency to the unorganised catering industry, childhood friends Arjun Subramanian and Raj Jain, who shared a passion for innovation, decided to partner in 2019 to explore opportunities in the institutional cafeteria space. In May 2020, the duo co-founded Platos, a one-stop solution for catering with a custom technology suite to streamline all aspects of cafeteria management.  “We had previously operated several cafeterias in Chennai, relying on manual processes. The pandemic made us realise the need for technological solutions to streamline canteen operations,” Subramanian, CEO and Co-founder, Platos, tells YourStory. “We believe startups solve real problems and Platos is our shot at making daily workplace food enjoyable again,” he adds. Since inception, Platos, with a team of 35 people, claims to have transformed 45 cafeterias across eight cities in India, including Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Delhi NCR (Gurugram), Noida, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bhubaneswar, Ranchi, and Hyderabad, among others.  Currently, it has over 45,000 monthly users placing more than 200,000 orders, resulting in an annual GMV run rate of Rs 18 crore. How does it work? The Chennai-based startup offers B2B2C cafeteria management for clients, with a B2B SaaS platform serving as a technology partner for companies and food vendors. Platos offers end-to-end cafeteria management, vendor selection, food trials, audits, and daily coordination to ensure seamless operations and consistent service.  “We aim to simplify the catering experience, providing a convenient and efficient solution that benefits both clients and vendors, and creating a connected ecosystem that enhances the cafeteria experience for all stakeholders,” says Jain. The tech-driven cafeteria allows employees/students to order, pay, pick up, and provide ratings and feedback. It also offers order lifecycle, inventory management, menu management, web dashboard, reports, and backend tools to effectively manage cafeteria operations. Additionally, its suite of applications, including the consumer-facing Platos Application, the partner-facing Platos Partner Application, and the Admin Web Dashboard, connects all stakeholders for a smart cafeteria experience. Platos currently manages cafeteria/food court operations for corporations, colleges, and hospitals, and also acts as a catering aggregator by partnering with food brands and industrial caterers. “We help caterers and businesses that are into catering. It usually coincides because the prerequisites are that they should have access to an industrial kitchen setup where they’re making food according to certain standards. And they should also be businesses because they need to have their GST and other licenses,” he asserts. Recently, it initiated pilot sites for B2B2C services, handling on-premise service and operations, and transporting food from food partners’ kitchens to corporates. Business model and market Platos charges a subscription fee for its SaaS product, and a commission per transaction on the application from its clients. It also upsells and manages end-to-end operations of cafeterias, charging a commission for every transaction carried out in the cafeteria. “We charge a percentage of Gross Food Value for our service, around 5% for the technology, and we upsell cafeteria management, service staff and logistics as warranted at 8 to 25%,” says Subramanian. Platos currently has an annual recurring revenue (ARR) of Rs 2.5 crore. “Our corporate cafeterias serve employees and students. They use our application to order food, ensuring efficient operations and customer satisfaction,” says Jain. The startup currently has over 35 clients, including HDFC Bank, Ferroro, SHL, Ecolab, Johnson Controls, Eaton, Hella Automotive, Medline, Xylem, and others. Despite facing challenges in launching cafeterias across major cities in the initial stages, Platos has experienced a 15% increase in its month-over-month revenue. The market and future plans The Indian institutional cafeteria market receives 50 lakh daily orders, with an annual order volume worth $2 billion in India and $200 billion worldwide, according to the founders. The industry is set to achieve Rs 2 crore ARR by November. The bootstrapped startup expects to operate over 250 cafeterias with a 10x growth in commission revenue in the next 24 months, operating close to CM2 (contribution margin) break even. According to the founders, Platos, which competes with players like Hungerbox and Smartq, stands apart by integrating B2B SaaS, cafeteria management, and service logistics, offering a more comprehensive solution.  The startup is looking to raise $1 million from seasoned B2B SaaS investors as strategic partners, bringing in capital, expertise, and networks.  “Finding the right lead investor is the compass that points your startup toward success,” Subramanian says

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