Camile Thai offers lower-cost delivery franchises

Brody Sweeney is targeting venues that could be converted into ‘cloud kitchens’

Brody Sweeney says that Camile Thai Kitchen, which incorporates Thai fast food aimed at health-conscious consumers, has been ‘thriving through the coronavirus pandemic’. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Brody Sweeney says that Camile Thai Kitchen, which incorporates Thai fast food aimed at health-conscious consumers, has been ‘thriving through the coronavirus pandemic’. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Camile Thai Kitchen, the delivery chain run by entrepreneur Brody Sweeney, is launching a lower-cost franchise model aimed at shuttered bars and restaurants during the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Sweeney is targeting venues that have been forced to close due to lockdown measures, but which have professional cooking facilities that could be converted into “cloud kitchens” for home delivery, even while they remain closed.

Camile Thai will charge an upfront licence fee to new franchisees of €5,000 and Mr Sweeney estimates that the total investment required to avail of the model will be about €30,000, including marketing and the conversion of commercial kitchens to include bespoke equipment such as wok cookers.

Franchisees would be given a deal to operate as a Camile Thai delivery service for an initial period of 12 months, with an option to extend.

Commercial kitchens

In particular, he is targeting premises with commercial kitchens that are centrally located in larger regional towns, such as Athlone, Mullingar, Dundalk and Wexford, as well as some areas of west Dublin, including Ballyfermot and Clondalkin.

He says he is in talks with several potential operators about rolling out the low-cost format.

Mr Sweeney said the idea came to him during lockdown as “a response to the difficulties restaurant and bar owners face, as they contemplate re-opening their businesses with social distancing restrictions, making many unviable”.

“It would be for delivery only, not takeaway or in-store dining, so no investment would be required for front of house,” he said.

He said many operators, even when they are allowed to reopen, face a “slow bleed to death” due to the capacity restrictions envisaged under social distancing rules. He suggests that a low-cost franchise could help to generate cashflow and allow the owners of commercial kitchens to “sweat the asset”.

Last recession

Mr Sweeney, who previously operated the O’Brien’s sandwich-bar chain before his ownership of the business fell victim to the property crash, co-founded Camile Thai Kitchen at the height of the last recession in 2010.

It now has 32 outlets, including five in London. About 20 outlets in its network are operated by franchisees.

Mr Sweeney claims the brand, which incorporates Thai fast food aimed at health-conscious consumers, has been “thriving through the coronavirus pandemic”. It lost its eat-in component during lockdown, which comprised 35 per cent of the business, as well as its takeaway services.

Home delivery services have soared during lockdown, however. Camile Thai has relationships with the major delivery aggregators, such as Deliveroo and Just Eat.