The boom in restaurant delivery has created a mini-boom in companies looking to help those restaurants make delivery. Much like the pickaxe salespeople during the gold rush, startups like KitchenPodular are eager to provide tools that restaurants can use to cash in on this wave of dining convenience.
The Las Vegas-based company creates small, modular commercial kitchen spaces that can be installed just about anywhere. KitchenPodular CEO and Founder, Michael Manion, told me their goal is to provide restaurants and other eateries with a versatile, affordable and completely controllable way to scale up delivery operations.
He also wants to draw a distinction between “ghost kitchens” and “cloud kitchens.” Ghost kitchens, according to Manion, are facilities that a restaurant runs completely. Cloud kitchens, he says, are facilities where you turn over some portion of control to that facility. KitchenPodular does ghost kitchens, Kitchen United, to Manion, is a cloud kitchen.
KitchenPodular pods can be purchased (or financed) for $150,000 on average and are anywhere from 206 square ft. to 430 sq. ft., depending on the configuration. Pods contain a walk-in cooler, sinks, ventilation hood as well as eletrical and plumbing, and can be customized with a drive through and/or walk-up window. Restaurants still need to provide their own ovens and stoves.
The idea is that restaurants can keep their existing sit down location as is. There’s no need to re-architect the existing building to accommodate increased order expediting or additional parking for waves of delivery drivers pulling in and out of the restaurant. Instead, they can shift those resources to a kitchen pod, which can be stationed anywhere to expand delivery capacity or extend a restaurant’s delivery range. Additionally, Manion said that if it turns out a restaurant doesn’t like the pod’s initial location, it can just pick up the pod and move it to a new one.
KitchenPodular also offers cheaper “pick-up pods” for around $100,000. These can be freestanding or built on to existing buildings to help facilitate delivery. For instance, a restaurant in a mall could install a pick-up pod in the parking lot. Expeditors would run orders out to the pick-up pod where they would be stored until the driver pulls up to get their food, eliminating the need for them to find parking in a big lot just to grab a meal.
KitchenPodular has been making similar, though more beer-related pods for Anheuser-Busch since 2014. The company is self-funded as of now, though exploring the idea of venture backing as it looks to scale. Manion told me that so far the company has “Sold a handful, but are in production on a lot” of full kitchen pods. Customers are typically big brands, and coffee and juice companies are “huge” for KitchenPodular.
While there are certainly some advantages to these pods, restaurants need to consider other factors to figure out what’s the best solution for their situation. Pods may reduce the need for expensive build outs, but they have to be staffed, and unlike a facility like Kitchen United, there is no shared labor for dishwashing and cleaning. Plus, even though they are small, kitchen pods are still facilities, and each requires management of power, gas, water and more.
Even with those caveats, KitchenPodular seems like it could make sense for companies wanting to take advantage of delivery. The pods are turnkey and provide for those gold rushing restaurants to mine new markets without making a huge commitment.