Another day another new ghost kitchen popping up to help restaurants feed the population’s demand for delivery. A new startup called Virtual Kitchen Co. “plans to announce” a $15 million investment from VC firms Andreessen Horowitz, Base10 Partners and others, according to an article published today on Bloomberg. SF Bay Area-based Virtual Kitchen Co currently operates a handful of commissary kitchen facilities, which have no front of house and exist solely for the purpose of renting space to restaurants who need to fulfill more off-premises orders.
Already, there are a few aspects of Virtual Kitchen Co. that set it somewhat apart in the world of ghost kitchen facilities. First, it uses what’s called a hub-and-spoke model, where ingredients are prepped the day before then shuttled to a smaller facility to be cooked and assembled. Compartmentalizing the meal-prep process like this could potentially speed up the work in kitchens, which have fewer tasks to complete compared to, say, a regular restaurant kitchen. The model brings to mind the work of Zume, who pre-makes pizzas in a central facility before sending them to the company’s mobile kitchens for cooking and delivery.
Virtual Kitchen caters specifically to local chains and smaller restaurant businesses, according to Bloomberg. Right now, the company’s (rather bare-bones) website has customer stories from Bay Area restaurants Poki Time, Dosa, and Big Chef Tom’s Belly Burgers as restaurant partners.
Virtual Kitchen was also started by ex-Uber employees Ken Chong and Matt Sawchuk. The latter formerly oversaw Uber Eats, which means he knows a thing or two about restaurant food delivery. Uber itself was experimenting ghost kitchens in Paris earlier this year, but isn’t planning to continue that venture, according to Bloomberg. That doesn’t, however, put Eats out of the game completely when it comes to ghost kitchens. In September, the service partnered with Rachel Ray for a virtual restaurant based on the celebrity chef’s latest cookbook.
And Eats isn’t the only ex-Uber party Virtual Kitchen Co faces in terms of competition: former CEO Travis Kalanick’s CloudKitchens network of ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants reportedly got a $400 million investment from Saudi Arabia and also has the benefit of Kalanick’s net worth, which is more than $3 billion at this point. On top of the that competition is also DoorDash’s newly opened ghost kitchen facility in the Bay Area and Kitchen United’s ever-expanding network.
All of which is to say, Virtual Kitchen Co. faces a rather hot market right now in terms of competition, one that will see many more cooks in the kitchen — literally and figuratively — as ghost kitchens become the new norm for restaurants.