Kitchen United, a fledgling startup that’s setting out to help restaurants open to new markets without investing in additional real estate, has raised $10 million in a series A round of funding led by Alphabet’s venture capital arm GV, with participation from the company’s own cofounders, Harry Tsao and John Miller, among other investors.
Founded out of Pasadena, California, Kitchen United offers prospective customers, or “food entrepreneurs,” what it calls “kitchen centers,” which are basically warehouse-type facilities that can house up to 20 different restaurants. These are not designed for eating in — they are merely where the cooking takes place, and the location from which meals are delivered, or in some cases picked up by customers. The ultimate goal here is to allow established successful restaurant brands to expand into new markets without having to go all-in on a local investment that may not prove fruitful.
Kitchen United actually offers more than simple kitchen spaces, though — it also promises data-powered decision-making. The kitchen centers themselves are opened in optimum locations to serve the public, with local demographic data used to establish demand for a specific type of cuisine. Consumer and operational data is also aggregated to give kitchens insights into their business, such as which menu choices are least popular, thus allowing them to try new things or remove menu options altogether.
“Consumers are demanding new dining choices at ever-increasing levels,” noted Kitchen United CEO Jim Collins. “Our kitchen centers are designed to bring production closer to homes and businesses across the country, empowering local and national businesses alike to reach new markets.”
This kind of setup represents a growing trend in the restaurant realm. Last year, European food delivery juggernaut Deliveroo, which is reportedly being courted by Uber, launched a platform that allows restaurants to open delivery-only kitchens. It’s all about reducing risk for restaurants looking to expand their footprint, with on-demand delivery networks feeding the demand for at-home restaurant experiences. Elsewhere, New York-based Pilotworks last year raised $13 million in VC funding for a similar proposition.
“Kitchen United’s data-driven approach to flexible kitchen spaces unlocks critical value for national, regional, and local restaurant chains looking to expand into new markets,” added GV general partner Adam Ghobarah. “The founding team’s experience in scaling — in addition to diverse exposure to national chains, regional brands, regional franchises, and small upstart eateries — puts Kitchen United in a strong position to accelerate food innovation.”
As part of GV’s investment, Ghobarah will also join Kitchen United’s board of directors.
Back in May, Kitchen United opened its first flagship kitchen center in Pasadena — a 12,000 square-foot hub that houses 15 restaurant chains, including Canter’s Deli, Mama Musubi, Barney’s Gourmet Burgers, and vegan joint the Pizza Plant.
With another $10 million in the bank, Kitchen United said it plans to double down on efforts to expand into new markets across Los Angeles, Atlanta, Columbus, Phoenix, Seattle, Denver, and New York by the end of 2019. The company said the funds will also go toward bolstering its own real estate, marketing, engineering, and operations footprint.