Third party delivery kitchen providers are growing their infrastructures and providing flexible catering spaces for operators of physical and virtual brands to create menus. Here’s our rundown of some of the leading names on the global scene…
1. KARMA KITCHEN
Karma Kitchen describes itself as “transforming industrial spaces into beautiful commercial kitchens, co-working, and storage”. The company’s mission is to build, equip, and manage the spaces with everything from kitchen porters and community managers to top-of-the-range equipment. The goal is to provide workspace that encompasses the full needs of a food and drink business.
The team behind Karma Kitchen are the same group involved with Karma Cans, the lunch delivery company founded seven years ago to make fresh healthy salads for offices around London. They have built two kitchens for Karma Cans and understand how important it is to get operations right early on.
Karma Kitchen offers three types of unit (shared workbenches, private kitchens and anchor production units), four different shifts (24-hour access, morning, evening and overnight), and access seven days a week. It currently has sites in Wood Green and Hackney.
One of its tenants is Taster, a multi-national virtual brand operator that launched its UK business straight from the company’s Hackney Kitchen. From one of its 24-hour private kitchens, Taster operated three separate concepts: a Korean fried chicken concept called Out Fry, a Poke brand called O Ke Kai, and Mission Saigon (its take on Vietnamese food).
It was Karma Kitchen’s flexible approach that allowed Taster to launch so quickly with it — the brand licenced the private kitchen from it within a week of another space it had an eye on falling through. Beyond this, the company’s approach to high health and safety standards also appealed to it.
Karma arranges for its kitchens to be inspected on a monthly basis by the local authority so that delivery businesses which rely on having an FSA rating to trade can quickly get approved and start cooking. www.karmakitchen.co
Kitchen rental firm Foodstars made the headlines two years ago when it emerged that Los Angeles-based City Storage Systems — the dark kitchens business owned by former Uber chief Travis Kalanick —had snapped up the firm.
The deal represented a remarkable milestone for a business which was only set up four years before when its three co-founders saw an opportunity to supply flexible kitchen space in the heart of London.
As FoodStars director Will Beresford told FEJ previously: “I rented a kitchen in South London, which was operated by my now business partner Roy [Shaby]. We realised there was a gap in market, we had a look around the market and the standard of kitchens wasn’t very good. There were barely any in zones one and two in London so we thought ‘let’s build great quality kitchens in prime London locations’,” he explained.
While the majority of the company’s 15 locations are dotted around London, FoodStars has expanded nationally and can now offer access to kitchen facilities in Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.
It targets operators that require kitchen units to support their online food delivery businesses, as well as companies looking for catering kitchen units with special requirements or central production units. Its locations are set up to aid easy access for users and their suppliers and delivery partners, with 24-7 access, security and infrastructure offered as part of the package.
Commercial kitchen units start from approximately 200 square feet, with larger units available at some sites. Foodstars also has the ability to combine individual units if larger spaces are required.
Licencing agreements operate on a rolling basis with a typical 12-month minimum commitment. Each kitchen unit has its own electricity and gas meter, which records a business’ individual energy consumption. Water and waste collection are charged on a per-kitchen basis.
It segregates waste into four streams and seeks to recycle across general waste, mixed recycling, oil and food waste. www.foodstarsuk.com
Kitopi, which has dual headquarters in New York and Dubai, is certainly a name worth keeping an eye on after it raised $60m (£46m) in funding before the pandemic last year. Only a couple of its 60 sites are in London, but that could well change given it harbours plans to reach 100 locations globally as soon as possible.
The shared kitchen platform was set up three years ago by four co-founders who noticed an opportunity to create state-of-the-art catering facilities capable of receiving orders and delivering them for restaurants and food brands.
Kitopi is particularly focused on small and medium-sized restaurants that want to expand their operations and reach new customers while reducing their order processing and delivery times. With no capital investment from the restaurants themselves, Kitopi provides the infrastructure and technology that enables food brands to open delivery-only locations and handles the orders at the kitchen on their behalf.
Once a F&B brand decides to work with it, the company take cares of all the operations — from the sourcing of ingredients and cooking with care to packaging and safe delivery. It currently partners with more than 200 brands across five countries.
Kitopi has built its own in-house Smart Kitchen Operating System (or ‘SKOS’ as it refers to it), which features a collection of applications that optimise all aspects of its cloud kitchens in real-time to maximise efficiency. This allows restaurant partners to serve more customers in a shorter period of time and as smoothly as possible.
The most recent round of funding comes after the business initially raised nearly $30m (£23m) in Series B financing to kick-start its operations. www.kitopi.com
With more than 250 commercial kitchens in its sites across London and the best part of 500 cold rooms, it’s not surprising that Dephna is confident that it can offer a convenient workspace for any food business — especially those wanting to develop a delivery service.
The company provides access to spaces ranging from 400 square feet to 4,000 square feet to accomodate any dark kitchen operation. Its kitchens in London are perfect for start-ups, street food vendors, high street chains and large catering businesses.
Dephna offers flexible pricing, 24-hour access and a fully customisable kitchen layout, along with hygienic floors and waste collection to meet food hygiene standards. Its team of experts can discuss the finer requirements of operators’ dark kitchen needs and put them in touch with equipment suppliers as well as food industry experts.
When it comes to understanding the potential costs involved, Dephna has created a pricing tool on its website so that users can work out a plan to suit their budget. www.dephna.com
5. DELIVEROO EDITIONS
Perhaps the best known of them all, especially in the UK, Deliveroo Editions was set up four years ago and operates from 16 locations around the UK. Its ‘super kitchens’ were designed to enable restaurants to expand without the need for upfront capital to invest in bricks-and-mortar sites.
Deliveroo now runs 200 kitchens through Editions, housing small independent brands like Mother Clucker alongside multi-site high street chains.
It uses its customer data to identify cuisine gaps in neighbourhoods and then fills this supply gap with its partner restaurants. Well-known restaurants that have recently moved into its delivery-only sites include Wagamama and Chipotle in Battersea, and Honest Burger in Swiss Cottage.
These restaurants previously didn’t cater for residents in those areas, but Editions has given them the opportunity to reach new customers and boost their sales without the significant costs of setting up a physical site.
A single, percentage fee covers upkeep costs, marketing support and access to a growth manager, backed by the logistics capabilities of Deliveroo’s delivery network. Dedicated site managers are on hand to help operators optimise their menu, packaging and give expansion advice, as well as support with any catering equipment needs.
Richard Franks, managing director at Chilango, which works with the platform, said: “Editions offered us a less risky way to grow and test areas we wouldn’t have before. Since we opened our first Editions site in Battersea, our relationship with Deliveroo has gone from strength to strength.”
Deliveroo Editions is now present in eight countries and is looking to double the number of sites it operates this year. Head of global site operations, Nigel Rivers, previously told FEJ that there are some recurring themes when it comes to creating a successful Editions kitchen.
He said: “The key criteria, I guess, is having a strong brand that customers want to order from. In terms of optimising the kitchen space, brands that can cover different day-parts are very useful, so we have done a lot of work on launching lunchtime trade. So, if a brand has different types of menu items that can fulfil both of those day-parts, then clearly that is going to be better for us. I think menu offerings that are easy to construct on order are going to be the ones that typically are going to be quicker, and therefore that results in a shorter wait time for customers, which generally equals more popularity.” www.deliveroo.co.uk
6. JUST KITCHEN
Ghost kitchen start-up Just Kitchen isn’t in the UK yet but its exploits elsewhere in the world make it one to watch. Although it only launched operations last year in Taiwan, the business has just listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and has plans to expand into the US, Hong Kong, Singapore and Philippines.
The company is at the forefront of the app-to-door dining space and is being scaled by an impressive executive team. Senior management includes Kai Huang — serial tech entrepreneur and original creator of Guitar Hero — and COO Kent Wu, founder of grocery start-up Milk and Eggs, which was acquired by GrubHub).
The company has 13 in-house food brands and partners with major existing brands like TGI Friday, where it acts as its prep and delivery partner. It is scaling a unique ‘Hub and Spoke’ food delivery model that cuts the industry standard delivery time by 50% and even allows for Michelin star restaurant meals to be delivered to exacting standards.
Hub kitchens are larger commercial kitchens where meals are semi-prepared daily before being sent to its Spoke kitchens for final assembly. The company remains focused on using analytics to inform its model, with integrated demographic data, cellular data, customer feedback surveys and partner data helping to determine location priority, food and menu selection, and demand volume predictions. This model has been growing in Taiwan at a rate of approximately 40% month-on-month, according to the company. en.justkitchen.com
7. KITCHEN UNITED
One of a number of dark kitchen providers blazing a trail in the US cloud kitchen space, Kitchen United has attracted private equity investment to support an ambitious growth programme aimed at securing locations in prime markets.
Launched in 2017, Kitchen United offers innovative restaurant chains a value-driven, low-risk opportunity to grow their business without the high cost of building out a standalone restaurant.
Its commercial kitchen hubs each house up to 15 restaurant brands, allowing the restaurant to focus on the food while Kitchen United takes care of the rest. The company employs a data driven approach to identify the best locations for its kitchen centres, aggregating insights on demographics, income levels and cuisine-specific demand in addition to drive time, traffic patterns and other data.
A $40m (£29m) Series B funding round was co-led by RXR Realty, one of the US’ largest real estate owners, investors, operators and developers, and that relationship has paved the way for it to expand into the New York market. A string of new locations are scheduled for 2021 as it looks for growth in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston.
At the start of this year, it unveiled plans to launch its second location in Chicago on the site of a popular former food hall. The reinvented commercial space will house 10 kitchens arranged throughout the property in a similar format to food halls, and will have one central order and pick-up area in the middle of the space.
The location will eventually open indoor and outdoor seating. Michael Montagano, CEO of Kitchen United, took over the running of the business last year and he said: “We believe strongly in the company’s growth potential as we sharpen our focus on serving our clients and creating value for our stakeholders.” www.kitchenunited.com