by Ulisari Eslita
The food and beverage industry (F&B) is among the fastest-growing industries globally and certainly in Indonesia. The rising population, increasing disposable income, changing demographics, and technology adoption make the perfect ingredients for the robust growth. In Indonesia, the association of food and beverage entrepreneurs (GAPMMI) estimates the F&B will grow by 5-7% in 2021, higher than the country's GDP growth projection.
Seeing the F&B industry's vast potential, celebrity chef Arnold Poernomo, better known as Chef Arnold, helps develop the industry through diverse platforms. For the past few years, Chef Arnold has been busy. Besides being one of the judges of the cooking reality TV show Masterchef Indonesia, Chef Arnold set up an F&B accelerator called Digitarasa, started the rice bowl restaurant chain Mangkokku together with President Jokowi's first son Gibran Rakabuming. Yet, he still has the time to run his Youtube channel with more than two million subscribers.
In Arnold's perspective, the F&B industry is an everlasting business. However, the business model has changed over time and was recently disrupted by digitalization. Now, to win the market, Arnold says food entrepreneurs have to adopt technology whether they like it or not.
"The products might be good, but they may not be able to run the business if they lack knowledge in this digital era," he adds.
At Digitarasa, Arnold helps expand the quality of the country's F&B industry. Digitarasa is a collaboration between the startup hub Digitaraya, GoFood, and Kopi Kenangan. Started a year ago, the Digitarasa acceleration program offers to develop an end-to-end F&B business-learning curriculum. Moreover, all participants also have the opportunity to network with numerous big players in the industry. In each batch, the program grooms entrepreneurs to access comprehensive business development from first-tier mentors and get up to $500,000 of investment. Participants will learn essential skills and knowledge about operational, branding and marketing, product development, market research. So far, Digitarasa has been grooming at least 30 entrepreneurs from two batches.
Dining experience across the Asia Pacific region is no longer about merely grabbing a bite to eat. With the current generation's increasingly sophisticated palates and their awareness of technology and social media, people are looking for a meal that tastes good, unique, memorable, and even gives a sense of adventure.
"Years ago, when my parents started their own F&B business in Sydney, they just opened outlets and expected walk-in customers to come. Today, we can't do that anymore. There are plenty of digital marketing tools we can utilize to boost sales and marketing," says Arnold. He adds that utilizing the on-demand food delivery platforms is a way that F&B entrepreneurs can count on nowadays since those platforms are proven to reach a broader and more precise audience.
"For instance, there are plenty of ayam geprek vendors in this country. The product may be good and tastes delicious. But the way you communicate with the customers is another question. How to convince customers that this particular ayam geprek is the most delicious just by seeing it from their phone?" says Arnold. Thus, the entrepreneur must understand the importance of photoproduct and packaging as key points to increase sales.
Before the pandemic started, on-the-go restaurants were gaining trend, and adoption of ready to eat food were increasing. However, due to lockdown in multiple countries, restaurants and cafes are temporarily closed. This creates an opportunity for the packaged food industry. Due to the pandemic, most people are working from home, and consequently, demand for online F&B orders are increasing tremendously.
"This COVID-19 pandemic has pushed players in the F&B industry to digitalize their business. Even Instagram provides food order and supports small business features during the pandemic to boost the F&B business," he says.
Arnold himself was facing challenges with his rice bowl restaurant chain, Mangkokku, when the pandemic hit. At the time, they were doing a massive expansion recruiting many team members to expand outlet. "Our focuses were on how to cover salaries and THR while we were negotiating with the landlord on the rental space," says Arnold. Luckily, at the end of last year, Mangkokku got its first external and institutional funding of $2 million from Alpha JWC.
Mangkokku was founded in 2019 after Gibran met Chef Arnold. Gibran invited his younger brother Kaesang Pangarep to join Mangkokku, while Arnold invited Randy Kartadinata, who serves as Mangkokku's CEO. On a daily basis, Mangkokku can sell 400-600 bowls per outlet. Today, Mangkokku has 30 locations in Jakarta's greater area. By the end of this year, Mangkokku aims to have 75 outlets in Java and outside Java. To do so, Mangkokku has adopted a few business models to market the product, from outline outlets such as malls to also online platform that utilizes cloud kitchen. Besides selling ready-to-eat, Arnold also plans to roll out ready-to-cook meals. With the new investment, Mangkokku is also eyeing international expansion with Australia, Singapore, and Vietnam as their main priority.
Although the F&B industry is getting saturated, room for growth is still there, according to Arnold. Population increase will keep the demand for F&B. Furthermore, sustainability and conscious eating are on the rise in many regions. The demand for healthier food and transparency in sourcing and sustainability are increasing drives much change in habit and innovation in the sector.
"We see there is a bigger room to grow for healthy food and vegan. It is a niche, but it is growing. I think everybody is concerned about their health, hygiene and now it is becoming a lifestyle," says Arnold.