The Story of KIN – A Sustainable Food Hall & App

By Matt Reid 20 July, 2022

Hong Kong’s 1st ever sustainable food hall has just opened! We chat with Co-Founder, Reid to learn about how KIN aims to revolutionize HK F&B operations

Didn't like the idea of getting food from the back of a mo-ped with no info about the ingredients; Committed to building relationships directly with farmers & food producers
45 brands & 200+ recipes from a single traceable supply chain; New ERP system helps with decision making for minimal food waste & timely small radius/on-foot deliveries
Future plans include circular by 2025 – 90% of packaging is bagasse & home compostable; App function that identifies customers to pilot in sustainability initiatives
Matt Reid
Author: Matt Reid
Matt Reid is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Steelhead Group which includes Maximal Concepts, KIN Food Halls, Far North Productions, Plastic Conscious and Disruption Labs, with long time business partner, Malcolm Wood. Steelhead Group is a symbiotic group of companies across four primary verticals: hospitality, environmentalism, wellness, and content production. Each business draws from the other; all grounded in core areas of passion and disruptive ideas harnessing creativity, innovation, powerful content, branding, strategy, and design. Matt’s ambitions are led by the desire to use business to create positive impacts and a triple bottom line mentality.
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KIN is Hong Kong’s brand new sustainable food hall based in Taikoo Place’s Devon House. It was founded in 2019 by forward-thinking entrepreneurs Matt Reid, Jonathan Yeoh and Malcolm Wood, best known for their hospitality group Maximal Concepts. KIN also launched Hong Kong’s first omnichannel food app allowing users to eat everything that they watch. KIN combines AI and automation to foster human connection through food and is the first food app to be purpose-built by restaurant owners. Strategically focused on high-density urban areas, KIN challenges the fundamentals of traditional delivery in ways that are financially, socially, and environmentally more beneficial. Going forward, KIN food hall plans to expand to multiple locations around Hong Kong to change targeted vertical populations’ eating habits and naturally create positive environmental impact.

To find out more about this exciting new concept, we sat down with Matt Reid to chat about how KIN aims to revolutionize the F&B operations in Hong Kong, its innovative sustainable strategies and its plan to evolve and expand.

CWR: Thanks for sitting down with us Matt. Everyone’s talking about the exciting new sustainable food hall that just opened in Quarry Bay, KIN. What’s the story behind KIN?

“I really didn’t like the idea of getting food from the back of a mo-ped with no info on where the ingredients were from…”

Matt Reid (MR): I really didn’t like the idea of getting food that had just been on the back of a mo-ped, with not a lot of information about where the ingredients were coming from. As a restaurant operator myself, I saw first-hand that the food industry is in crisis and believe that we need to create systemic change to drive real meaningful impact.

Our mission is to create technologies to implement solutions to the food and climate crisis. KIN enables whole districts to have access to exciting food from food innovators, made with traceable and responsibly sourced ingredients, seamlessly available, digitally led with carbon free delivery. This is the first integrated food solution that learns what a building wants to eat. We have built KIN to be highly scalable and plan to expand into every urban vertical community.

CWR: What makes KIN different from other food halls? How does KIN want to revolutionize F&B operations in HK?

MR: KIN is the first omni-channel food app where you can eat everything that you watch. It offers a content driven approach to food ordering that offers more variety, great access to brands, faster delivery, and better quality in more sustainable ways. KIN is a platform that celebrates well-known chefs as well as emerging culinary creators from across the APAC region. KIN is a solution driven app that solves many of the pain points experienced by restaurants and food delivery companies, on financial and environmental fronts.

“…[instead] we are committed to building relationships directly with farmers & food producers…

One of the largest influences we have is through our supply chain. Our ingredient charter establishes transparency throughout the supply chain and includes principles that ensure responsible supplier and ingredient selection that are not merely based on cost. We are committed to building relationships directly with the farmers and food producers to increase transparency and accountability. These relationships also allow us to have conversations around food provenance.

As an example, we make our own sushi, fresh, every day. We offer a variety of sushi with only two types of fish – responsibly sourced king salmon and yellowtail from fish farms in New Zealand and Australia respectively. Both farms are BAP and ASC certified which ensures that they adhere to a good aquaculture standard that reduces negative impact on the environment. Purchasing from these two farms helps us ensure that we know where our fish are sourced from, fish stocks in these areas are well-managed and have a lower impact on our oceans.

….[which] allow us to have a conversation around food provenance”

All our beef comes from an organic beef farm in Australia, obe Organics. It is a family business that has been passed down from one generation to another, and we have built a direct relationship with them that allows us ask questions and understand how they operate and the added value that they’ve instilled into their company.

These are some of the intangibles that we are able to share with our guests and increase awareness of where their food comes from.

Our architecture and interior design team was challenged to incorporate at least 20% of upcycled and/or recycled materials into our space. I’m very proud to say that we have surpassed that goal. We have managed to incorporate these upcycled and recycled materials into our bench surfaces, which are made with upcycled circuit boards, tabletops made from six different types of upcycled food waste materials, and lamp shades made from recycled Longjing tea leaves, among many other aspects in our build. We are very proud to be able to show guests how these materials can be seamlessly (and tastefully) incorporated into interior design, without jeopardizing function.

CWR: What are various food concepts available at KIN and why have they been selected? What makes them sustainable?

MR: KIN is a digital-forward, F&B integrated solution for mixed-use developments and vertical populations. We redefine the food hall experience by offering access to multiple famous restaurant brands and chefs, all cooked fresh onsite, produced from an engine that seamlessly offers eat in or delivery.

Your food playlist V2

45 brands with 200+ recipes  – all from a single traceable supply chain

The whole customer experience is managed within the KIN app, the first content rich app that consumers can discover, watch and eat everything they see – a digital omakase. We have found some of the most exciting brands from Hong Kong and Asia.

Currently we have over 45 brands with more than 200 recipes in our database or what we call, our recipe cloud. Among these, we have a rotation of roughly 60 dishes at one time, dropping a brand new dish each week, and have partner brands that range from Michelin-starred chefs, rising stars, local neighbourhood heroes and international brands. What makes them sustainable is that these dishes are made with ingredients that meet our ingredient charter and come from a single supply chain.

A traditional food hall has multiple vendors, with their own individual kitchens and supply chains; we have just one kitchen and one supply chain which gives us increased control and management on our inputs and outputs. As an example, this single incoming stream means that our culinary team can breakdown and prep produce and proteins into the appropriate portions for respective dishes and food waste in the kitchen is limited to these preparation areas.

CWR: And then there is the launch of the KIN app – congrats! Can you explain how it works?

ERP system helps with ordering decisions that lead to minimal over-ordering & food waste…

MR: Thank you – we built our systems from the perspective of a restaurant owner. There are many different systems out there that address various needs, but they don’t always integrate with each other. Our integrated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system flow is dependent on our app capturing data and being able to automatically convert that data into effective decisions which means our culinary teams can focus on putting out great food. The ERP system can capture data from transactions made via the app, that is channeled through to our procurement and inventory systems. That data is used to forecast inventory levels in real time, which allows our teams to make better ordering decisions that lead to minimal over-ordering and reducing food waste.

CWR: And how it challenges the fundamentals of traditional delivery in ways that are better for the environment?

MR: Traditional delivery platforms are built on a model where there are no winners on any front, not restaurants, not drivers, and definitely not the environment. Restaurants are charged crippling commissions from traditional platforms making them unsustainable long term, KIN has solved this by flipping around a traditional franchise model and franchising individual dishes from restaurants that are then prepared inside a KIN kitchen.

…& helps operate small radius/on-foot deliveries to ensure timely & traceable deliveries

Delivery platforms are very limited with the hiring of delivery drivers because the pool can only include those who own a scooter and a scooter operating license, KIN removes this barrier to employment by keeping a small delivery radius that allows deliveries to be made by walkers.

Hence, all our deliveries are made on-foot and currently only within the 9 Taikoo Place towers which allows us to focus on ensuring deliveries are done in a timely manner, are traceable and we are able to troubleshoot fairly quickly if issues arise.

CWR: KIN aims to be completely circular by 2025. What does that mean and how is KIN planning to achieve this milestone?

MR: Food delivery platforms often are hard on the environment, through the carbon emissions used to deliver individual orders, the use of lower cost ingredients in dishes (sometimes in response to the high commissions charged by traditional delivery) and wasteful packaging. 90% of our packaging is bagasse based and home compostable. The small footprint of KIN allows for us to aim for complete circular packaging by 2025. In the meantime, our packaging will be as low-impact as possible for the environment.

90% of packaging is bagasse & home compostable

The first iteration of our circular packaging is our catering boxes. We offer large format responsibly sourced sushi, cheese and charcuterie and morning pastries through our online store, KINshop.

The items are packaged in reusable wooden boxes, and we encourage guests to either reuse these boxes or return them to us. In addition, if the customer is within Taikoo Place, we offer to pick it up from them.

CWR: These initiatives sound great, but how about KIN’s water impact and management?

MR: We’re proud to be Taikoo Place’s very first F&B tenant to achieve the highest, Three Leaf rating, in their Green Kitchen Initiative which is a programme that encourages green and efficient kitchens in a variety of aspects.

Utilities equipped with water conservation mechanisms

We built our kitchens with the initiative measures in mind so when it comes to water, our water faucets are equipped with flow restrictors that meet the WELS Grade 2 standard. Our industrial dishwasher is energy efficient and has a water recovery system that uses heated drain water to heat incoming cool water. It also has an optimized spray system that uses larger water droplets for rinsing to cover a larger surface area, hence requiring less water.

CWR: Going forward, how is KIN planning to evolve and expand?

MR: We’re constantly on the lookout for new brands and partner restaurants to work with and introduce to the Taikoo Place area. The next big phase for our app is the introduction of our loyalty programme where we will be able to identify groups of customers based on their preferences, habits, and interests, which will allow us to reach customers that may be interested in piloting some of our sustainability initiatives with us before a full roll out.

New app function that identifies interested customers to pilot in sustainability initiatives

We are currently on a pilot programme with Zero Foodprint Asia, that involves a lifecycle assessment of our operations and menu. This involves setting our baselines, identifying where our material impacts are and eventually, set goals to reduce impacts on energy, food waste and water usage.

We are also looking at a pilot with our packaging supplier for a sustainable solution for food and packaging waste and we are constantly working on implementing our own circular takeaway packaging system.

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