Two restaurants from the same kitchen? That’s precisely what Gastrolabs is doing with Pulse + Beet and Flip Burgers. They share the same kitchen and team but are two entirely different brands with distinct brand identities and catering to different audiences. While Pulse + Beet is a premium café brand with soups, salads, bowls, and [...]


One kitchen, two distinct tastes and Gastrolabs is on cloud 7


Two restaurants from the same kitchen? That’s precisely what Gastrolabs is doing with Pulse + Beet and Flip Burgers. They share the same kitchen and team but are two entirely different brands with distinct brand identities and catering to different audiences.

While Pulse + Beet is a premium café brand with soups, salads, bowls, and wraps, Flip Burgers is more down-to-earth and serves up everyone’s favourite: burgers.

Varied fare: From left, chilled drinks, beetroot salad and salmon bowl from Pulse+Beet; crispy chicken and burgers from Flip Burgers

Pulse + Beet and Flip Burgers are the first two brands launched by Gastrolabs and the Sunday Times sat down with its Managing Director, Rukmankan Sivaloganathan, to talk about Gastrolabs and the concept of cloud kitchens.

While there are many variations, Rukman explains that there are two fundamental cloud kitchen models. The first is the infrastructure model, where the cloud kitchen is essentially a landlord providing kitchen space, ordering platforms and so on to various small restaurant businesses who typically use third-party delivery platforms to reach their customers. This is the most common model. The second, which Gastrolabs follows, is the fully integrated model where the cloud kitchen owns the kitchen and creates its own internal brands.

Gastrolabs currently has one kitchen in Colombo 3 out of which it has launched these two brands. The company is looking at rapid expansion over the next few months and plans to open more kitchens and launch more brands in the near future.

No stranger to this concept, Rukman’s former startup Trekurious offered curated dining and travel experiences in Sri Lanka and was also at the forefront of Mumbai’s home chef dining scene circa 2014/15. Trekurious also attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to scale up the home chef business by setting up a cloud kitchen to do deliveries of popular home chef meals. “But the time in Sri Lanka is perfect for this venture now. We have two established third party delivery companies (and some smaller ones) that have created the delivery market here by normalising ordering in food on a regular basis,” Rukman says, noting that earlier  it was pre-UberEats and delivery services alike.

Rukmankan Sivaloganathan

The COVID lockdowns have also sped up adoption of app usage for online ordering, even among the older generation and this combined with changing demographics (i.e. both parents working, etc) Sri Lanka is well on its way on the same path followed internationally.

Cloud kitchens are perfectly poised to ride this wave as they are, by nature more nimble and flexible than traditional restaurants as they are not bound to a particular cuisine, he explains, elaborating on how they are also less expensive to set up as they don’t need to rely on prominent road frontage, decor, theme etc. By launching multiple brands from the same location, they are also a more efficient use of space and capital than traditional restaurants.

It’s not all a smooth ride though. In addition to the usual hurdles of running a restaurant, including sourcing and logistics, Gastrolabs was also launched mid-pandemic and had to overcome all the associated challenges that came with it. However, two and a half months after the simultaneous launch of both brands, progress seems to be good, especially judging by the positive reviews on UberEats and social media.

We  opted for pickup from their kitchen on 31, Perahera Mawatha, Colombo 3. The dishes came neatly packed and secured in brown paper bags. From Pulse + Beet, we ordered the Beetroot, Rocket and Goat’s Cheese Salad, the Furikake Salmon Bowl, the Spicy Chicken Wrap, and the Passion & Narang Chiller, all of which were labelled in fun, bold coloured packaging with a small description of what each item was.

The Beetroot salad was a personal favourite; a hearty salad with the sweetness of the beetroot and date puree balanced out by the tart goat’s cheese, with crispy rocket leaves and walnuts adding texture to the dish.

Their signature dish, the Furikake Salmon Bowl, was a filling meal with a generous fillet of perfectly cooked salmon over a bed of rice, shitake mushrooms and avocado, covered in furikake sauce that gave a layer of crunch to the salmon. The Spicy Chicken Wrap was stuffed with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and more with juicy pieces of chicken. Perfect for a working lunch  while the Passion and Narang Chiller was a sour yet refreshing juice to wash down the entire meal.

The main event for us from Flip Burgers was the Flippin’ Big Burger, a towering burger with two beef patties (each a quarter pounder), cheddar cheese slices, pickled jalapenos and gherkins, sauteed mushrooms, topped with sauteed onions all sandwiched between sesame crusted brioche bun. A mouthful of flavours is an apt description for this burger as all the ingredients combined create quite a bite.

The Crispy Vege Burger with its patty being made out of mushroom, soy, potato and lentils topped with house slaw and tartar sauce is the perfect option for vegetarians. Every component of the burger was a well thought addition making it a delicious burger. The ‘house’ sauce accompanying both burgers elevated them to the next level giving it quite a distinct flavour.

Not your regular old fried chicken, the Crispy Fried Chicken was two large boneless thigh pieces coated in spice and flour rub that gave it some heat while retaining its juiciness and crispiness. Their Salted Caramel Milkshake -a yummy thick shake with strong notes of caramel left you wanting more. Coming well-packed in a glass jar, the cool caramel shake reminds you of baked goods straight out of the oven.

All the packaging used was sustainable craft boxes and glass jars (with the exception of the plastic lids used for the salad dressing ) — a nice change from the usual non-recyclable packaging.

You can find Pulse + Beet and Flip Burgers on UberEats, PickMe and EatMeGlobal with their delivery radius ranging upto 6km from the heart of Colombo. They also do pickup and delivery to your doorstep through their own channels so check them out on Instagram as well or contact them on Whatsapp at 0779074686.


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