Reef Technology, which turns underutilized urban space into what it calls “neighborhood hubs,” announced today it has just raised a $700 million syndicate investment to further that vision. TechCrunch first reported the news. Softbank and Mubadala led the round, along with Oaktree, UBS Asset Management, and Target Global. This brings Reef’s total funding to $701.9 million.
Reef started its life as ParkJockey with the goal of more efficiently managing parking lots. Over time, however, the company has evolved from disruptor of parking lots to a real estate business that provides infrastructure for retail spaces, clinics, and cloud kitchens, among other ventures. The idea is to turn these underutilized spaces in cities into hubs for local neighborhood businesses. Think town square of olden days, only in this version it’s equipped with shipping containers that hold kitchens and stores and powered by software.
According to TechCrunch, Reef will use the new funds to scale from about 4,800 locations to 10,000 locations around the U.S. Ari Ojalvo, the company’s cofounder and chief executive, said ghost kitchens “will be a significant part of non-parking revenue” for Reef.
These ghost kitchens are housed in Reef’s mobile trailers that can be parked virtually anywhere there is underutilized real estate. Restaurants wanting to offload delivery orders or those launching virtual concepts can rent the spaces. Right now, the kitchens house a mix of local and national brands across the country, including Saladworks, Wow Bao, and BurgerFi. Customers order meals via the major third-party delivery apps (DoorDash, Uber Eats, etc.).
Reef’s gargantuan fundraise comes a time when ghost kitchens, virtual restaurants, and virtual food halls are becoming an integral part of the restaurant industry. The future of the restaurant dining room still hangs in the balance — especially with winter coming and COVID-19 cases rising. That in turn is forcing restaurants, restaurant tech companies, and infrastructure providers like Reef to rethink the formats in which customers access to-go and delivery meals.
Euromonitor recently predicted the ghost kitchen sector will be worth $1 trillion by 2030, and there are investment dollars a plenty to support that projection. Ordermark just raised $120 million to build out its virtual restaurant network, which will utilize ghost kitchens. NYC-based Zuul raised another $9 million for its Big Apple-based concept. And outside the U.S., Yummy Corporation (Indonesia), iKcon (Dubai), and Zomato (India) have all raised capital in the last few months.
In Reef’s case, its kitchens also provide employees to prep the food in addition to physical space. The company has over 100 kitchens across 20 markets in North America. Between the ongoing pandemic and the new influx of investment, those numbers will rise quickly in the coming months.
If you’re interested in diving deep into ghost kitchens, you won’t want to miss The Spoon’s upcoming ghost kitchen virtual event on December 9th.