Isthara, a smart food court and co-living brand, has increased its smart food court footprint in the country by opening its 40th smart food court in Hyderabad, bringing the company’s total number of smart food court seats in the country to 10,000. In the next three years, the company plans to expand to 150,000 seats in a market with more than two million people. In Telangana, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, the company has already signed up more than 50 food courts.
“We believe that the smart food court format will be a norm in the next few years. We are excited to bring this new concept to more cities in the near future and look forward to bring about a revolution in the institutional cafeteria ecosystem. Additionally, through the multi-vendor format, the smart food courts are enabling budding F&B entrepreneurs to scale and set new standards in the institutional cafeteria dining segment,” Krishna Kumar, co-founder of Isthara, commented.
Letsmobility, a software product engineering firm, was also recently acquired by the brand. The company plans to use Letsmobility’s private cloud-based micro app platform, Livet, to introduce advanced tech solutions and expand its capabilities in the institutional cafeteria domain due to this acquisition.
“While we started with housing, we quickly realised that food was also a major concern for this target segment. We started the smart food court segment as a college cafeteria transformation exercise. Seeing our work in the co-living space, we were approached by a large education institution to transform their hostel cafeteria and turn it into an Isthara-standard property. While we were working on this, we realised that a lot of institutions were facing challenges in their cafeterias as they were run by local unorganised vendors, and there were issues in terms of the quality of the service and food,” Kumar commented.
Interestingly, the corporate sector had a comparable requirement. Since then, the company has used the smart food court concept in the workplace. By taking over the institution’s cafeteria space and bringing in the appropriate vendors, technology, and procedure, the company runs in a fixed shared model or a revenue shared model, depending on what suits the institution best.
Apart from corporations and educational institutions, the company aims to work with hotels, schools, hospitals, and other institutions to scale its cafeteria. “This would help more industries in creating a great revenue yield for their organisation and optimising the food court space efficiently. By delivering the right product at the right time to the right people, we believe in building long term relationships that spread beyond the mere transaction of service offerings,” Kumar added.
“During Covid, we re-structured our business model to make it a sustainable, long term business model. There was also a change in customer habits and safety and hygiene standards became a priority. This opened up new avenues for us as we identified the gaps and challenges that the pandemic presented. As a result, we believe that today, we are stronger and more efficient as compared to the pre-Covid phase. We also used this phase to invest further in our tech to make our product and offerings superior,” he further informed.
Even though the hospitality industry was going through a difficult period, the company could recruit a large number of new employees who were interested in working for startups. During the pandemic, the overall number of employees climbed from 400 to 900. Kumar says Isthara is in a better position to meet the market’s needs now that more workplaces and educational institutions have reopened.