Last year Shaswat Joshi, now a senior at UNC, began a small business on the side called SamosaBucket to sell homemade samosas—small, dumpling-like pastries with savory fillings—to other college students. Joshi relied on social media and Instagram DMs for his customers to place orders. From his in-the-trenches perspective, however, there wasn’t a convenient and cheap app he could use to receive orders.
Apps like Grubhub and Doordash not only have eligibility requirements for what restaurants can be on their app, but they allow customers to place live orders at any time of day. For “ghost kitchens” like SamosaBucket—a ghost kitchen is a food business without dine-in options—that also doesn’t have set hours of operation, live ordering is neither a feasible nor cost-efficient option.
So, a few months after starting SamosaBucket, Joshi teamed up with his friend and UNC classmate Bipul Khadka to create CloudEats, a web app for ghost kitchens to receive orders that implements a pre-ordering and bulk-delivery system to give customers discounted prices and free delivery.
“We’re a digital and easier option for those business owners that rely on Instagram DM or asking around like, ‘Hey, I’m selling cakes, do you want any?’” Khadka said. “Our goal ultimately is for every ghost kitchen’s orders to happen through us. We want to be the marketplace for ghost kitchens everywhere.”
Restaurants can be on the CloudEats app too, but the startup is targeting ghost kitchens because they are more likely to benefit the most from pre-ordering, Khadka said. Pre-ordering enables them to order the precise amount of ingredients in bulk ahead of time, which decreases costs and prevents unnecessary food waste.
“For restaurants that are already taking live orders, pre-ordering wouldn’t change their model too much,” Khadka said. “But for the owner of a ghost kitchen, knowing exactly how many orders are coming in at a given point allows them to prepare accordingly so they don’t have to waste time in the kitchen or on unnecessary food or staffing.”
CloudEats participated in Launch Chapel Hill’s summer accelerator program, where they received a $5,000 grant. Joshi developed the MVP of the web app earlier this year as part of a class project, and the MVP went live this summer. They are in the pre-revenue trial stage with three local ghost kitchens (including SamosaBucket) on the app—all of whom are able to offer customers free delivery and discounted prices because of the money they save from pre-ordering and bulk delivery, Khadka said.
They are currently working on product development and plan to re-release soon. They are also deciding how to structure their business model, with one potential avenue being that kitchens pay a fee to be on the app, which they could afford to do thanks to the money they save from the pre-ordering system. With that model, customers wouldn’t have to pay the hefty delivery fees that are par for the course on other food delivery apps, Khadka said.
“On Doordash and Ubereats, especially with smaller meals, the delivery fee could be more than the actual price of the meal,” Khadka said. “We want to try and steer clear of that for the customer.”
After the re-release, their next steps include getting more ghost kitchens on the app. Specifically, Khadka said they want to start small by targeting local, pop-up ghost kitchens such as UNC students selling goods on campus. Targeting student-run businesses, Khadka said, will also give them access to a market that companies like Facebook relied on for its initial growth: college students.
“We’re really focused on high-concentrated areas like a college campus,” Khadka said, “because if your deliveries are all in bulk, you can make one pit stop and deliver 10 times as much for so much cheaper than if you were to do asynchronous delivery method through DoorDash, where each order kind of gets delivered one by one.”