Mr. Vikram Goel, Managing Director, RATIONAL India


“Although the F&B sector was a direct victim of the pandemic, the sector has showcased great flexibility in adapting to the new normal.

1.Kindly brief us about your company and your business network.
RATIONAL is a Germany-based global leader in the hot food preparation segment for professional kitchens. A pioneer in the combi-steamer manufacturing space. 
At RATIONAL, we follow a philosophy of customer benefit, where we always try to understand the challenges faced by the customers in their commercial kitchen and offer them a suitable solution for it. The result: over 50% market share worldwide.

In our 10 years of presence in the Indian market, we have also worked towards carrying forward our core philosophy by making customers aware about the benefits of the combi-steamer technology through RATIONAL CookingLive (RCL) – a 2-hour event conducted regularly at multiple locations. 

The corporate office in India is situated in Gurugram across an area of 10,000 sq.ft. and has a demo café as well as two state-of-the-art test kitchens where prospective clients and partners can see RATIONAL combi-steamers live in action. A conglomeration of 25 such test kitchens and 21 chefs stationed across different cities in India support our live food trials and also expand our reach.

2.What are the current trends you observe in the Indian food & hospitality sector?
As the pandemic impacted the global economy and induced a scare of cash crunch, consumers were worried to leave their houses and also from spending on non-essential experiences. This left the at-restaurant dining business to see detrimental consequences. The demand for outside food however remained, which in turn was met with food deliveries. Seeing the surging dine-in orders, many cloud kitchen outposts kept mushrooming across the country seeing both new players and existing restaurateurs trying to tap the space. 

Although the F&B sector was a direct victim of the pandemic, the sector has showcased great flexibility in adapting to the new normal. On the back of celebrated popularity, known restaurant brands diversified their services like experimenting with food bundles and DIY meal kits, or even the luxurious chef-at-home experiences. This crisis has in turn allowed the restaurant sector to tap newer opportunities for revenue generation and also increasing brand reach.
The consumer sentiments have changed, and people are increasingly relying on the promise of hygiene and safety being provided by the restaurants. In my view, this change in mindset in terms of cautiousness will continue for quite some even after we put this pandemic behind us. On the other hand, F&B business owners too have already started realising the dynamics of technology’s application in the kitchens to elevate the hygiene standards as well as maintain food safety, and are therefore willingly investing in it.

3.How are you helping the industry to meet the current trends? Are you launching any new product/s?
Making the consumers sentiments more stringent in terms of hygienic food handling, the pandemic has prompted the food business owners and restaurateurs to upgrade their professional kitchen set up with smart equipments in a bid to meet the modern-day consumers’ needs and to make the back end operations increasingly fool-proof.

Our ongoing striving efforts to know the challenges that our customers face in their commercial kitchens, has provided us with an opportunity to launch the iCombi Pro in a bid to help them meet their needs more intelligently and at a higher capacity while also subsequently reducing the opex, energy consumption and water consumption. Equipped with four intelligent functions – iProductionManager, iCookingSuite, iDensityControl and iCareSystem, the iCombi Pro is furnished to cook the food exactly how the chefs need, by helping them maintain optimal humidity and temperature in the foods, plan the inventory to be cooked intelligently, attain reliable results. With the ultra-fast interim clean function, it can also clean itself in just 12 minutes without the hassle of manual labour. The iCombi Pro truly ticks all the boxes when it comes to maintaining hygienic cooking, high productivity, smart time and inventory management, low energy costs, etc.

4.Tell us how COVID – 19 impacted your business and being a leader of your segment, how you addressed it?
As we cater to only professional kitchens, given that the hospitality industry was suffering with the brunt of cash-crunch induced by the Covid-19 pandemic, our performance for the sector too saw some turbulence in the initial months too. However, with the government easing the lockdown measures, we saw an upsurge in demand for our intelligent cooking centres as many cloud kitchens started mushrooming throughout the country and the existing kitchens planned to upgrade their kitchen setup to make their food preparation more hygienic.

Knowing the pain points of our consumers, in the midst of the pandemic, we introduced a first-of-its-kind commercial kitchen equipment leasing model in India, wherein the foodservice business owner just has to spend fixed monthly amount thereby helping them to convert capital expenditure into operational expenditure, while fully enjoying the benefits that the intelligent combi oven provides. As it was a tough time for the foodservice businesses to operate in the trying times, we at RATIONAL India came forward with this solution to create a win-win situation for all the stakeholders.

5.As we are at the start of the year, what are your key expectations from the industry and what do you suggest for the industry to recover fast?

As we started the year on a high note, all that we expect is to see in this year is that the hospitality sector in the country thrive as it did prior to the unprecedented crisis brought in by the pandemic. As we expect that, we have been striving to help the industry recover soon, by engaging with them to know their shortcomings in the kitchens of their outlets to help them serve better. 

As technology has come a long way in its application across industries and has only let them thrive by streamlining most of the convoluted tasks, I would suggest to upgrade to a new-age technologically advanced intelligent foodservice equipment which will help the foodservice business thrive on the back of low operational costs, reduced wastage, high productivity and hygiene assurance.