TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Walking into JustKitchen’s center of operations in Taipei’s Neihu District, one gets the sense that something big is on the horizon.
On one side of the office, employees are busy at work behind their computers figuring out the tech side of the operation, while on the other, food is being taste-tested and architectural plans are being approved.
They say timing is everything, and as restaurants around the world struggle to stay afloat during the pandemic, one bright spot has been delivery — enter JustKitchen. The food delivery startup opened for business on March 26.
CEO Jason Chen (陳星豪) told Taiwan News that traditional brick-and-mortar establishments are finding it harder to succeed, especially with food costs, labor expenses, and real estate prices all going up. Loosely based on former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s CloudKitchens food-delivery startup, the team at JustKitchen came up with their own “hub and spokes” model.
Food is centrally prepared at the company's main kitchen facility in Neihu, cooked almost to completion, and then shipped out to satellite kitchens throughout the city based on customer locations for the last leg of preparation before finally being delivered through Uber Eats. Chen said they currently deliver out of four areas of Taipei: Neihu, Bade, Xinyi, and Gongguan.
Four more spoke kitchens are scheduled to come online by October in Shilin, Zhonghe, and Banqiao in New Taipei City and one in Taichung City, with the goal of having 10 delivery locations by the end of the year. According to Chen, the plan is to have 23 to 25 spokes to cover the entirety of Taiwan, from Taipei to Kaohsiung, in more densely populated areas by the end of 2021.
JustKitchen's BIT beef noodle
JustKitchen currently offers six delivery-only brands for hungry customers to choose from: BIT Beef Noodle, Body Fit (healthy bentos), Just Chicken (fried chicken), Hot Ones (hot wings), Thai High (Southeast Asian bentos), and LuWei Lab. They are also planning on rolling out three additional options that are actually partnership brands, two with Michelin-starred restaurants and one with TGI Fridays, Chen said.
For each of the brands, menus are kept simple, ranging from eight to ten items. The most affordable main dish comes in at around NT$100 (US$3.40), while the most expensive is around NT$350 (US$11.90). Currently, the company delivers between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. each day, but the goal is to incrementally increase this to 12, 15, 18, and finally 24 hours a day.
Chen pointed out that in February, third party delivery use (Uber Eats/Foodpanda) in Taiwan was around 35 percent; however, by June it had nearly doubled to 68 percent. When asked if there were any concerns about a drop-off in delivery orders once the pandemic is over, Chen said he was confident business would remain steady.
He pointed out that as brick-and-mortar restaurants have somewhat returned to normalcy in Taipei, online orders have not come down. He also said the age bracket that saw the biggest percentage of growth in terms of using delivery was the 50-and-older demographic.
JustKitchen has some big goals, as it hopes to build Taiwan out as a model for expansion. Chen said the plan is to go abroad in late 2021 or 2022 to places like Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong, which all have high population densities as well as the infrastructure in place to support delivery.
Taiwan has always been known for its fantastic food. Now it looks as if it’s about to be known for its delivery, too.
JustKitchen's Just Chicken