When we first wrote about Kitchen United, a commercial kitchen space where restaurants can open delivery-only expansions, we thought the idea was a good one. Businesses like Kitchen United provide a way for eateries to capitalize on the growth of delivery, but don’t require a huge chunk of capital.
Since opening in downtown Pasadena on June 1, Kitchen United has built out its 12,000 square foot facility and now houses eight different restaurants including Pizza Plant, The Lost Cuban, Mama Musubi, Canter’s Deli and Barney’s Gourmet Burgers.
During my recent trip to Los Angeles I stopped by Kitchen United, where its Chief Culinary Officer, Massimo Noja De Marco, gave me a tour. I went during the day, so it wasn’t as busy, but there were enough cooks doing prep work to get a sense of how it all works.
Here’s what I saw:
Kitchen United is big, taking up a serious chunk of an entire city block. In addition to the rows of cooking spaces rented out by the restaurants, there is also cold and dry storage. Kitchen United offers its own staffers to take care of stuff like dishwashing and expediting orders, so restaurant workers can focus on making food.
Most of the restaurants are slotted into galley-style kitchen spaces. They have ovens, fryers and cooktops, but can bring in their own specialized equipment (like a particular pizza oven), which Kitchen United will help install.
There are also smaller, cubicle-like spaces for food entrepreneurs to experiment with their personal (or grandma’s secret) recipe. This took me a little by surprise. When I last talked with Kitchen United, the company was focused only on restaurant delivery. Perhaps there was enough demand or incremental revenue to open it up to smaller operations, who pay by the hour.
Kitchen United was built to accommodate a steady stream of delivery drivers coming and going throughout the day and night. As such, there are 62 parking spaces where drivers can pull up, run into the building and drive off without needing to circle the block for a spot or hold up traffic.
Once inside Kitchen United has big signs and screens up to help make sure the right drivers get the right order. Food is packaged up and brought out to a series of racks in the back where drivers can grab them and go quickly. There are also attendants on duty to help make sure the orders are fulfilled properly.
De Marco said that currently Kitchen United is fulfilling “hundreds” of orders each day, and that busy times can vary by restaurant (Pizza Plant, which serves a vegan pizza, is evidently busiest after 10 p.m. on weekends). Kitchen United only delivers within a 3 – 5 mile radius (that goes out to 20 miles for catering jobs).
The company has 12 more locations in the works across the country and is growing at a time when Pilotworks, another commercial kitchen on demand startup, closed two of its locations. However, companies like The Food Corridor, and former Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick’s cloud kitchen operation, offer similar services.
We should be able to get more information about the commercial kitchen and delivery space from Kitchen United CEO, Jim Collins, who will be speaking on the future of restaurants at our upcoming Smart Kitchen Summit in Seattle in October (get your ticket today!).