Berlin, Germany-based Keatz has raised €12 million (~$13.6 million USD) in new funding for its virtual restaurant operation, TechCrunch reports. The round was led by Project A Ventures, Atlantic Labs, UStart, K Fund, and JME Ventures, with participation from RTP Global. This recent round brings Keatz’ total funding to €19.4 million (~$22 million USD).
Keatz operates a network of 10 virtual kitchens throughout Europe — that is, kitchens created specifically for delivery orders, which customers place online or via an app. Keatz’ menu items are currently available through Deliveroo, Foodora, Lieferheld, and Pizza.de.
Rather than partner with restaurants, as many virtual kitchens do, Keatz has taken a less-traveled route and keeps its own portfolio of restaurants created by an in-house culinary team. Also different from most virtual kitchens out there is that Keatz pre-cooks all food in a central kitchen, then ships frozen meals to smaller assembly kitchens. As my colleague Chris Albrecht pointed out recently, “this hub-and-spoke approach to meal creation also allows Keatz to easily swap new brand concepts in and out at each location.” So if Vietnamese cuisine isn’t selling in one area, the concept can be easily swapped out for fish ‘n’ chips, or whatever happens to be in high demand in that vicinity.
Right now, Keatz’ restaurants include vegan food, Hawaiian Poke, Thai curry, a soup brand, Mexican food, and salads and wraps. Keatz chooses its menu items based on which foods are best suited to delivery — that is, food that can withstand an extra 15 minutes getting jostled around during a car or bike trip. “We believe the last unsolved part in food delivery is the preparation of food itself,” Keatz co-founder Paul Gebhardt told TechCrunch.
He would hardly be alone in that opinion. In fact, a growing number of restaurants, restaurant tech companies, and others are starting to focus more on the food itself as the best way to improve the delivery experience for customers. Taster, headquartered in Paris, France, runs kitchens “with military-like discipline” and chooses foods suited to the delivery process.
In the U.S., all manner of companies offer delivery-only concepts with this “food first” focus. ClusterTruck operates a virtual kitchen with an enormous menu of delivery-friendly food items it creates, executes, and delivers itself. And earlier this year, Dig Inn launched its Room Service concept, using virtual kitchens that plan their menus around food that actually gets better in transit. “At the end of the day, the guest isn’t going to come back to you because your technology is amazing, they’ll come back to you because the food is amazing,” Dig Inn Director of Offsite Scott Landers told me recently.
But whether it’s avoiding soggy food or just providing more efficient delivery operations for existing restaurants, companies up and down the restaurant industry are now participating in the virtual kitchen craze. Uber turned heads last week when news broke that it was piloting its own kitchens in Paris. Kitchen United is expanding at a rapid pace, renting kitchen space to restaurants who need or want more space to fulfill delivery orders. And Deliveroo has operated its own kitchens in Europe for some time now.
Keatz launched in 2016. The company says it plans to use the new funding for further expansion of both its food portfolio and the number of kitchens it operates.