Foodpanda partners with Indian cloud kitchen firm Rebel Foods

FILE PHOTO: Foodpanda riders get ready for deliveries outside a restaurant, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kuala Lumpur

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Online takeaway delivery firm Foodpanda is partnering with Indian virtual kitchen company Rebel Foods to roll out the latter's virtual restaurant brands at 2,000 outlets across ten Asian countries, Foodpanda's chief operating officer said.

"Foodpanda is Asia's largest's food delivery company ... while Rebel Foods is the largest virtual brands operator in the world," COO Pedram Assadi told Reuters. "This is the largest virtual food brand partnership of its kind."

Under the deal, Foodpanda, which is owned by Berlin-based Delivery Hero, has recruited and trained hundreds of outlets to franchise the global restaurant brands created by Rebel Foods and offer their food on its platform.

Mumbai-based Rebel Foods, which offers multiple cloud kitchen brands across countries including India and the United Arab Emirates, raised $175 million this month at a $1.4 billion valuation. It plans to launch an IPO in the next two years.

Cloud kitchens which prepare food for delivery got a boost from the shift to online buying during the COVID-19 pandemic. Low overhead costs versus traditional restaurants and fast scale-up potential have also enabled "internet restaurant chains" to grow quickly.

Foodpanda's partnership with Rebel Foods is already being tested in six of the twelve Asian markets that Foodpanda is active in, and there is the option to expand to the other regions Delivery Hero is active in, Assadi said.

He did not give any financial details of the deal, but described it as core to Foodpanda's strategy in Asia - along with its expansion into grocery delivery in Southeast and East Asia - as it takes on competitors such as as British rival Deliveroo and Singaporean startup Grab Holdings.

"Over the last year, we now have built over 250 'cloud stores' that are operating grocery end to end, which makes us the largest e-commerce delivery player in APAC (Asia-Pacific)" Assadi said, referring to distribution centers dedicated to online grocery orders.

Delivery Hero, which is active in 50 countries worldwide, announced on Tuesday it had invested $235 million in Berlin-based grocery delivery company Gorillas, as the global race to dominate the rapid delivery service sector intensifies.

Earlier this year, it also picked up a minority stake in Deliveroo.

(Reporting by Fanny Potkin; Editing by Himani Sarkar)