Kitchen United will expand its ghost kitchen network significantly in 2021, the company said during a talk at this week’s ICR conference (h/t Restaurant Dive). Michael Montagano, KU’s CEO, said he expects the company to grow its number of locations from its current four to 20 by the end of the year, which would equal 500 percent growth for KU in total units.
The company currently operates ghost kitchen facilities in Pasadena, California and Chicago, Illinois, as well as in Scottsdale, Arizona and Austin, Texas. According to Montagano’s ICR presentation, Kitchen United’s 2021 expansion will include new facilities in those existing “high-volume” markets as well as kitchen facilities in completely new locations, like New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Plans for this massive expansion come as restaurants continue to struggle with closures and capacity restrictions brought about by the pandemic and the industry continues shifting en masse to off-premises formats like ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants. And even when those limitations are lifted, general consensus is that meal formats like takeout and delivery are here to stay, which means more restaurants will continue seeking kitchen space in which to fulfill those orders.
Underscoring the demand for more kitchen space, Montagano said during ICR that Kitchen United’s existing facilities are full, and that existing customers want to continue growing with the KU platform. To date, Kitchen United’s facilities have served most known brand names, including The Halal Guys, Dog Haus, and Wetzel’s Pretzels. A move to more and different parts of the country may allow more regional chains to take advantage of the company’s kitchen infrastructure, too.
In larger cities like New York and San Francisco, Kitchen United will have plenty of competition. Zuul is already an established player in New York City, with plans for expansion around the five boroughs. San Francisco has the super-secretive CloudKitchens, Reef, which raised a whopping $700 million last year, and, in the Peninsula area, DoorDash Kitchens.