Dubai’s cloud kitchen startup Kitopi eyes Asia launch, Saudi expansion

By Sayujya S, Desk Reporter
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Dubai-based Kitopi, a technology startup which runs cloud-kitchens, is set to raise more money from investors later this year as it plans to expand in Saudi Arabia and launch in Southeast Asia.

A cloud kitchen is a delivery-only restaurant that has no physical space for dine-in. It relies entirely on online orders placed through online food aggregators or an online ordering enabled website or mobile app. 

The company, whose kitchens handle delivery orders for multiple food brands, is due to become profitable “this year, sometime very soon,” Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mohammed Ballot said.

After opening in the east and west coasts of Saudi Arabia, as well as in Qatar and Bahrain, Kitopi will launch in several cities across Southeast Asia later this year, he said.

Cloud kitchens have started to attract more attention from global investors and international food brands as movement restrictions encourage a boom in food delivery.

But lockdowns to tackle the impact of the coronavirus pandemic have been a double-edged sword. Kitopi closed down its operation in New York last year as cases spiked, while food delivery soared in places like the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. The company eventually aims to re-enter the US, Mr. Ballot said. “Our ambition is a global one,” he said.

The company, which raised $60 million last year, is benefiting from an uptick in the number of investors looking to put money into technology firms in the region, Mr. Ballot said. The $3 billion sale of Dubai-based ride-hailing app Careem to Uber Technologies in 2019 “showed global investors that this region can offer good opportunities.”

The need to diversify regional economies and create jobs means that “government-related entities, big corporate venture capital or private equity firms in the region, and sovereigns, are all looking at investing in local tech start-ups more than ever before,” he said.