Disruptr speaks to Ida Ali who leads an all-female team at Food Dreams & Co on the journey of establishing 10 kitchens and 4 brands, creating more accessible work spaces for people with disabilities and what the future holds for the team.
In an attempt to reimagine food delivery and to help new food entrepreneurs, Ida Ali and her team came up with the concept of Food Dreams & Co during the pandemic.
“We aspired to reimagine great tasting food for this new digital economy. Having worked a decade in a well-known food delivery business, I understood that in order to be successful it wasn’t possible to just transpose the operations and set up of a traditional restaurant into this new era of 150sqft cloud kitchens.
“This opportunity and challenge became my key inspiration for starting business, an asset and human resource light operations that was able to produce great tasting food quickly and efficiently to serve the growing needs of the skyrocketing convenience culture,” co-founder Ida says.
Made up of a group of like-minded foodies, the brand is committed to building kitchen incubators to help new food entrepreneurs start business, avoid pitfalls and get guidance. Today, Food Dreams & Co has established 10 kitchens and 4 brands.
Although the brand has its kitchens with space to rent, being a cloud kitchen operator is not its main focus. Rather, the team is more focused on developing the software, the brands and food offerings that can profitability leverage the hardware, i.e the cloud kitchens.
Ida shares that their initial kitchens were outfitted in areas where there were no cloud kitchen operators, as the team saw potential in these areas. But moving forward, this has now become less of their focus as more and more cloud kitchen operators are emerging.
With 10 kitchens and 4 brands under Food Dreams & Co, the team have no plans in slowing down and is already planning in launching 4 upcoming brands.
“Our next 4 brands will compliment the offering of our current 4 brands but will address a different need for our customers and the business. With every ideation of a brand, we look to creating great tasting food that delivers well and is in demand within the market,” she says.
Key highlights and lessons learnt throughout the journey
The journey so far, she says, has been one that is full of surprises each day and a period where she and her team have celebrated wins and despaired failures. But through it all, Ida is set on making this journey a success and is keeping her eyes both firmly look at what each day for her and her purpose.
“Throughout the journey, some of the highlights have been facing the unknown and walking through it bravely, with only the belief in myself, my partners and my team that come what may, we will ace and conquer. I have also met wonderful people that have supported and encouraged me, many of whom I had never met before this journey started,” she tells Disruptr.
“I have also learnt that the sun always comes out in the morning. Meaning that no matter how dark it may seem, I believe there is always a way out into the sunlight. I am also a big practitioner of realigning to the purpose as it’s easy to get lost in the whirlwind of the day-to-day,” she added.
As a food entrepreneur, Ida believes in the vision of ensuring her business will be able to create opportunities for everyone including those who are disabled. It is not only about digitisation, though technology does definitely assist, she says. For example, when orders come into the kitchen, in normal circumstances they appear on the screen or a print out, hence not feasible for those who are visually impaired. In cases such as these, voice-based technology to speak out the orders will be helpful.
“Traditional F&B operators will find it difficult to employ people with disabilities as kitchen operations are not set up to cater to their special needs. So, I do not believe it is a matter of effort but more of not seeing the possibility to within the current infrastructure,” she says.
Ida also goes on to share that Food Dreams & Co is fortunate in this area as their concept makes it possible to be successful within the new digital as the cloud kitchen ecosystem has very simplified operations with clear SOPs.
“The jump to make our business disability friendly was not great, but we are very fortunate to also have a seasoned veteran in this field, namely Stevens Chan of Dialogue in the Dark (DID) to be our partner in this endeavor,” Ida shares.
Food Dreams & Co will be providing kitchen spaces for DID to produce and sell their own brand of food. These kitchens will be staffed by up to 4 disabled workers and the food will also be sold across the several brands under Food Dreams & Co.
“As FD&Co is also designing its SOPs to be OKU friendly, we will also be engaging some of DID’s trainees as our own kitchen staff in our Brands of Pastabeats, Imaginasi, Chop Chop and Crazy Kitchen.”
Commenting on Government efforts to increase job opportunities for people with disabilities, Ida says Putrajaya had been pro-active in committing to ensure that 1% of the civil workforce is allocated to this demographic. To date, the initiative has shown progress with around 0.6% of the 1.2 million civil servants falling within this category.
Ida also urges Putrajaya to looking into the infrastructure for the disabled in places off work, for instance ensuring all building are required to be disabled friendly.