Is opening a food delivery business in Malaysia in 2021 a good idea? If we look at recent data and the growth of online food delivery over the past year – given shifting market trends – the business opportunities look promising. For 2021, global projections show online food delivery increasing 11% to $151,526M compared to last year. In Malaysia, year-over-year growth jumps 26% to $267M.
These stats provide a positive outlook for delivery-focused kitchens (otherwise known as virtual kitchens, cloud kitchens, ghost kitchens or dark kitchens), but to actually run one successfully makes things a little more complicated.
You might think that food is the determining factor for what makes or breaks a food business enterprise. And while the menu is, of course, essential, there are other issues that most restaurant owners struggle with to start and sustain a successful business. We’ve found a common challenge that consistently makes the top of the list:
This makes sense when you think about it. You could have the most delicious food in the world, but without a well-planned marketing strategy that gets the word out about you, you risk not getting any customers. No customers, no business.
That’s why we’ve put together this seven-step guide to help you familiarise yourself with the basics of how to market a food delivery business in Malaysia in 2021. Take the time to review the steps and focus on the action items that will attract, engage, and retain the right customers. By prioritising marketing for your virtual kitchen, you’ll set yourself up for long-term success.
Step 1 – Create a solid business plan
If you’re unsure about how sound your business plan is, don’t go any further until you’ve mastered this step. Your plan should not only include the type of food you’re offering, but it should specify what your unique value proposition is in the competitive landscape, who your target market is, how you plan to make your products accessible and appealing to them, determining your price points and tangible short-term and long-term goals.
Any traditional restaurant business plan will include these elements, but for a food delivery business in Malaysia, you must also factor in the logistics for this niche. How will you package the food? What do you need to do to ensure that the food items stay as hot or as fresh as possible from kitchen to customer? Be sure to answer these questions thoroughly, as the customer experience determines what gets a five-star versus a one-star review.
Step 2 – Invest in professional photos and visuals
As the saying goes, “you eat with your eyes first.” The best way to whet a person’s appetite is through high-quality visuals of mouth-watering food. Not just anyone can achieve this – hitting that sweet spot requires the right camera/lens, optimal lighting, complimentary props, dressing and colours. That’s why hiring a professional food photographer is worth the investment over the long term.
Think of these photos as the star selling tools you’ll want to repurpose for all of your marketing assets – your online menu, website, social media accounts, mobile ads, etc. In today’s virtual, highly visual world, make sure you don’t skimp on this step.
Step 3 – Secure your Google My Business (GMB) listing
It’s a given that people perform initial searches for everything online. To find food and restaurants, people expect access to a phone number, hours of operation, website, and such basic business information. Google has over 98% search engine market share in Malaysia, so this step is absolutely vital.
Securing your GMB listing is easy and free. For such a quick and simple process, this is a must-do considering the positive impact it can have on your food delivery business.
Step 4 – Build an optimised website with an accessible online menu
In today’s digital-first society, any potential customer looking for food delivery will look online. Along with your Google business listing, you’ll need an attractive, user-friendly website. To make it to the top of search queries, an SEO-optimised site is the best way to go.
An online menu should be a prominent feature of your site – hungry browsers need to easily see their food order choices. Put your professional photos to good use here to make the sale. Also, include specials or seasonal offers that you keep updated and relevant. And remember that over 50% of online searches take place on mobile devices, so your site must be mobile-friendly.
A website is also the best medium to start a customer database and cultivate customer loyalty. Include a simple sign-up process for users to claim offers and promotions to get names and emails. With this information, you can easily add email marketing to your outreach efforts.
Step 5 – Establish partnerships with local delivery companies
Food delivery services have surged in Malaysian urban areas. Among the best in Malaysia are GrabFood, FoodPanda, Bungkusit and Hometaste, but there are several more to research to see who best suits your needs. The benefit of partnering with such companies is that they have an established customer base, and they have the resources to deliver your food to anyone’s doorstep efficiently and to the customer’s satisfaction.
Some businesses decide to partner with one established company – which may come with special deals or benefits – or with several companies to expand their customer base. Research your options and choose the arrangement that best meets your cloud kitchen business goals.
Step 6 – Build an online community (organically and with paid advertising)
Social media is a business opportunity you must not ignore. Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, you can reach practically any target consumer. As of 2020, 81% of Malaysians were active social media users.
Because it’s such a powerful tool, businesses of all sizes are present across all major social media channels. Visual social platforms, like Instagram, are particularly powerful for food business owners. Once again, this is where your professional food photography will pay off. Social media lets you not only promote your food with appetite-inducing photos, but it’s an effective tool for referrals – like incentivising followers to share exclusive offers with their network.
There are two ways to build your online community – organically and with paid advertising. The obvious benefit of organic growth is that it’s free. You must invest time and be consistent with growing your social following organically, but it pays off in the long run. Allocating an advertising budget for strategic social media ad placement – especially when your business is new – can help boost your brand awareness.
Step 7 – Create a mobile app
Based on a 2020 survey, 22% of respondents in Malaysia claim they ordered food with a delivery app once or twice per week, some even several times a day. Once your virtual kitchen gains popularity – and if you have the time and money to invest in developing a quality app – this could be a lucrative marketing tool.
A mobile app is also effective for building customer loyalty and increasing return customer rate. By offering your users a seamless ordering experience and exclusive app-only promotions and benefits, you’ll keep them coming back for more.
Final thoughts on marketing strategies for your virtual kitchen in 2021
The food delivery business is on an upward trend worldwide and predictions confirm this trajectory into the future. Starting a delivery-focused food business using an affordable kitchen infrastructure provider like Kitchen Connect will help you get started by reducing your overhead costs and giving you the tools you need. By adding these marketing tips to grow your business, you have the recipe to make your cloud kitchen a success.Have questions or enquiries about setting up a delivery-focused business in Malaysia? Discover more about our first virtual kitchen location in the affluent Malaysian neighbourhood of Mont’Kiara. Contact us today to learn more.