Why Kune fell in Kenya regardless of the worldwide rise of cloud kitchens

On the boisterous scene at Sarit in Nairobi, Kenya, you’d discover numerous business exercise, and a stroll by means of a few of the properly paved walkways would carry an enormous whiff of tasty goodness, pointing to a busy meals section. It will then shock many who Kune, a food-tech startup that raised $1 million in 2021, has closed store. 

On Wednesday, June 22, 2022, Robin Reecht, the corporate’s CEO, said that it had run out of cash, exhausted all its choices, and could be shutting down. What adopted has been a collection of well-thought-out and baffling reactions on the Web. 

However it received us eager about the issue Kune was making an attempt to resolve. Does its departure create a gap for higher execution in Kenya’s meals section? To grasp this, we’d need to dig into the finer particulars of Kune’s enterprise mannequin and what Kenya’s meals supply panorama seems like. 

Kune’s mannequin in a worldwide context

L-R: Founder and CEO, Kune Africa, Robin Reecht and his workforce. Supply: TechCrunch

In June 2021, Reecht accompanied his TechCrunch pitch with a story that Kenya didn’t have a robust meals tradition. Nevertheless, a easy Google search would have revealed Meals and Kitchen Kenya, a meals exhibition present in Nairobi. Narrative apart, Kune’s mannequin was fairly attention-grabbing. 

When it introduced a $1 million pre-seed in June 2021, it said that it will be disrupting Kenya’s meals market by launching a hybrid or cloud kitchen mannequin, a declare that received the likes of Launch Africa on board as considered one of its early backers. 

This meant that Kune would personal your complete meals provide chain, from the cooking to packaging to the supply with its riders and motorbikes. It additionally deliberate to personal a fleet of 100 electrical bikes and rent 100 feminine riders. 

Capturing the exploding meals supply business ought to assist perceive Kune’s proposed mannequin. The assorted startups on this house function three distinct fashions: aggregator market, restaurant deliveries, and cloud or darkish kitchen.

Within the first mannequin, the corporate builds a platform that lists all of the eating places near the shopper. When the shopper locations an order, the restaurant both handles the supply or leaves it to an agent of the platform. 

The platform then prices a fee, normally 20-30%, on the order’s total worth. Firms like DoorDash efficiently function this mannequin in the USA, whereas UberEats has expanded this service to a number of different international locations, together with Kenya. 

In some circumstances, these platforms are extra actively concerned within the meals supply course of and act as intermediaries between the restaurant and the shopper in case of any points or complaints. Grubhub within the US and Jumia Meals in Nigeria readily come to thoughts. 

In response to Statista, the platform-to-consumer mannequin generated $189 billion globally in 2021 and is projected to generate an extra $100 billion in income by 2025. 

Alternatively, legacy restaurant chains have begun providing restaurant supply companies by means of their apps or web sites. They both fulfil the orders or use third-party supply suppliers; Burger King and Dominos are some restaurant chains offering this service. You possibly can order from these eating places when you’re having a lazy day, however if you wish to have an excellent time, consuming out could be the best way to go. 

Restaurant-to-customer deliveries generated a income of $107 billion globally in 2021, with projections to achieve $165 billion by 2025.

So how does the hybrid mannequin are available in? 

The hybrid mannequin takes a leaf from each fashions the place the corporate prepares and packages the meals and delivers to prospects itself. Not like restaurant chains or platform companies, it neither has to cope with outfitting a dine-in house for purchasers nor fear about high quality. Belgium’s Ghent and Malaysia’s Dahmakan are prime examples of this mannequin. 

Nevertheless, the cloud kitchen mannequin is quickly evolving. CloudKitchens, a startup backed by Uber Co-founder, Kalanick, has raised $850 million and is presently valued at $15 billion. It operates a mannequin that focuses on getting impartial cooks to make use of their house and tools for cooking. 

The corporate guarantees to get your kitchen up and working, deal with deliveries, and cut back prices whilst you concentrate on simply cooking. Nigerian fintech firms like Lendsqr and Evolve Credit score function an identical construction the place they arrange the know-how and lenders concentrate on lending to prospects. 

The worldwide cloud kitchen market was valued at $56 billion in 2021, and the analysts at IMARC Group, a market analysis agency, count on the sector to blossom to a whopping $112 billion by 2027. From all indications, gamers within the platform and restaurant chain house could be trying to take a chunk from the cloud kitchen pie. 

Why did Kune fail in Kenya if the worldwide cloud kitchen sector is exploding? 

The significance of native context


Like the remainder of the world, Kenya’s on-line meals supply sector can also be heating up. Buoyed by an more and more digital tech-savvy inhabitants, the house was price $79 million in 2021, with Jumia Meals, Bolt Meals, Take Eat Straightforward, and Uber Eats, amongst others, being severe gamers. 

Nevertheless, whereas platform-to-consumer deliveries dominate globally, restaurant deliveries take the lion’s share, with a market worth of $53 million, in comparison with $26 million from platform supply firms. 


When Kune raised $1 million to construct a darkish kitchen set-up, it was competing in a hotly contested house, and it wanted to additional differentiate itself. For this, it selected worth, a ache level for each shopper on the planet. Nevertheless, worth impacts folks otherwise, however extra on that later. 

Kune might have chosen different methods to enter the market. As we noticed earlier with Kalanick- backed CloudKitchens, it might have constructed darkish kitchen and supply infrastructure for tons of of eating places in Nairobi that, opposite to Reecht’s opinion, truly provide high quality and inexpensive meals. 

Going by Statista’s figures, restaurant-to-consumer deliveries are projected to witness probably the most development in Kenya, with a $313 million worth by 2025. Estimates counsel that platforms will solely account for nearly half of this determine. Within the US, platform-to-consumer meals supply is projected to develop quicker than restaurant deliveries.

Kune then took up the humongous process of constructing a technology-enabled infrastructure for cooking, packaging, and cellular and internet purposes; it additionally wanted to keep up a community of native suppliers to ease operations. Doing all these whereas providing a really low worth level of $3 contributed to a enterprise that possible didn’t have profitability in sight. 

Default useless or default alive

In his LinkedIn announcement publish, Reecht cited the present financial crunch and the tightening funding market as one of many causes he determined to tug the plug. This was only one yr after its pre-seed spherical and 7 months after its official launch in December 2021. 

By February 2022, Kune hit a turnover of $37,000, and by March, it reportedly delivered 600 meals per day, which might quantity to a turnover of $55,000. Per Reecht’s assertion, Kune bought over 55,000 meals to over 6,000 particular person and 100 company prospects. At $3 per meal, this may imply Kune made a complete income of ~$165,000 in its complete existence. 

If it hadn’t shut down, our tough estimates present that Kune would have wanted to outlive until at the very least November 2022 to cross the $1 million income mark. That’s assuming a constant month-on-month buyer development price of fifty% and its $3 worth level. 


Even when it did, the gross margins on every meal introduced one other drawback. Whereas meals value $3, manufacturing and supply prices per dish amounted to 50% (common of meals and drinks) of this quantity. 

This value solely accounted for the worth of components, packaging, and supply, and it didn’t account for heavy hitters like salaries, lease/lease, and its “tech-enabled” facility upkeep value. Its plans to function 100 electrical bikes would even have pushed up prices, with respectable electrical bikes costing between $1,500 and $4,000. Ampersand’s bikes, for example, value over $2,500 and buying 100 of these would have taken up 1 / 4 of Kune’s fundraising. 

When firms use worth as a market entry technique, they normally anticipate a mass adoption that both makes the unit value price it or hooks folks in for a extra worthwhile and profitable product.

In Nigeria, for instance, competitors between telecom firms constantly drove down the price of SIM playing cards, calls, and information to encourage mass adoption. Utilizing public information from MTN and Airtel, you’d observe that this concerned a heavy capital outlay that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of subscribers. MultiChoice’s introduction of GOtv presents one other case on this section. 

Within the startup world, we are able to simply look to the fintech firm, OPay, which took the Nigerian house by storm in 2019 with its ride-hailing and meals supply companies. OPay provided customary meals from notable eating places that attracted a miserly ₦10 charge: we all know for a indisputable fact that the meals have been of the common high quality and amount as a result of we positioned many orders. 

In some unspecified time in the future, it appeared prefer it needed to turn into Nigeria’s tremendous app, however we figured that every little thing was bait for its funds service, which finally proved to be an enormous success following the onset of the worldwide pandemic. 

Nevertheless, nearly one yr after its 2018 launch, OPay raised $150 million in six months between July and November 2019. There’s rather a lot you are able to do with such a struggle chest.

On a number of ranges, the unit economics of Kune’s mannequin was shaky, and it will have wanted to boost extra enormous funding rounds to regular the ship. Additionally, an equally defective narrative in regards to the Kenyan meals market and a tightening funding panorama did it no favours. 

Nevertheless, rising meals costs and a troublesome financial market are points confronted by almost each restaurant. Normally, eating places reply by mountain climbing costs or decreasing meals amount. 

Curiously, Kune’s foray into the market and the preliminary investor pleasure have us eager about the potential for cloud kitchen companies in Africa. 

Different potential routes to discover

If restaurant-to-customer deliveries in Kenya are projected to develop by 490% between 2021 – 2025, it bodes nicely for a well-executed cloud kitchen mannequin. Why? Barring an act of God, the price of sustaining customary brick-and-mortar eating places will possible preserve rising. 

A ghost kitchen mannequin that develops a software program platform for managing deliveries, stock, buyer complaints, and/or different kitchen services and permits current and potential restaurant house owners to focus solely on cooking appears fairly compelling. 

Once more, Kalanick’s CloudKitchen and UAE’s Kitopi are glorious examples of the success that might be achieved with this mannequin. Each startups have raised $1.3 billion and $804 million, respectively, and are making important strides within the international cloud kitchen sector. 

Additionally, an asset-heavy mannequin akin to Kune’s would possibly work, nevertheless it must be at a justifiable worth level. An asset-heavy mannequin with a low worth level might be approached as bait to achieve market share and hook customers into a greater and extra worthwhile service. 

Nigeria’s Eden Life, which expanded to Kenya in Could 2022, operates a associated mannequin emphasising high quality management. However, in contrast to Kune, it operates a subscription mannequin the place you’d want a minimal of $38 a month to get one meal delivered each week. 

Every Eden Life meal would then value nearly $10, however that’s not the place it stops. If a buyer chooses a six meal per week plan, it saves cash on logistics and delivers simply twice every week. It additionally operates a laundry and residential cleansing service side-by-side, thus creating extra income streams. 

Although Eden’s mannequin is probably not with out its challenges (which mannequin is foolproof?), its founders have related native expertise, so the expertise in Kenya could be completely different. 

Furthermore, the anticipated development in restaurant-to-customer deliveries in Kenya suggests a extra grounded and hands-on method would possibly show productive.

Regardless of our evaluation, hindsight is all the time 20/20. You would tick all the appropriate packing containers and nonetheless be a part of the 90% of startups that fail. Or, like Kune, you may be a part of 10% of startups that fail of their first yr. 

It will be attention-grabbing to see an indigenous Kenyan founder with the related native context take a crack at this mannequin. For those who’re already engaged on one, kindly shoot us an e mail, and our reporter, Emmanuel Paul, can be at your service.


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