Kitchen United, Westfield to bring ghost kitchen technology to the mall

News Highlights: Kitchen United, Westfield to bring ghost kitchen technology to the mall

Mix in Westfield Mall

Source: Mix

The Westfield Valley Fair shopping center in Santa Clara, California, is trying to offset the dwindling foot traffic and eating restrictions caused by the pandemic and is partnering with Kitchen United to help diners order food.

Eateries at Westfield Valley Fair will be able to use Kitchen United’s technology to facilitate takeout orders and send food to lockers for pickup or delivery from the mall’s ground floor.

“Shoppers can now access their favorite Valley Fair restaurants from the comfort of their home, with the added convenience of ordering from a number of different restaurants with the same ticket,” said Joy Lai, Kitchen United Chief Operating Officer.

A vertical conveyor will move orders from the food court to the pick-up station, making it easier for drivers to get food in about a minute. The increased speed helps maintain the quality of the food supplied, Lai said. Participating brands include Big Little Fish, Pizza My Heart and Haagen Dazs.

The companies were in talks to work together ahead of the pandemic, but plans were sped up because of Covid, Lai said.

“We have done everything we can to help the restaurants that need us in this day and age, where traffic in shopping centers is less… and with indoor dining restrictions, it was really challenging for these restaurants to even eat. open up and do business, ”she said.

The move makes sense as shopping centers continue to struggle due to both the health crisis and changing consumer preferences. A recent report from Coresight projects could close as many as 10,000 stores in the US this year, including many clothing stores, setting a new record. These closures could lead to even fewer trips to the mall. Even top-tier shopping centers are suffering, resulting in lower valuations.

Kitchen United, which has raised $ 50 million from investors including Google Ventures, isn’t the only company looking for new business in the mall. Last year, shopping center operator Simon Property and Accor, the hotelier, teamed up to launch C3, a virtual kitchen company. The company will open more than 400 new kitchens this year thanks to a favorable real estate environment.

Ghost kitchens, also called virtual or dark kitchens, allow businesses to prepare food that is strictly delivered for delivery, sometimes with multiple brands under one roof sharing a kitchen. The concept also allows brands to operate virtually, without a physical restaurant, and only serve food for delivery.

Investments in ghost kitchens were up 11{85e7f5b37d2b3b32ff943ebdbb52de90edc4132ca8c2134f6732351e5442126f} last year to $ 3 billion from 2019, said Alex Frederick, senior emerging tech analyst at Pitchbook. While bigger players like REEF Technology and Travis Kalanick’s CloudKitchens account for much of the funding, start-ups and established brands also lean on the concept.

Euromonitor estimates that ghost kitchens could create a $ 1 trillion global opportunity in food delivery by 2030.

The blow of the pandemic to independent restaurants will continue to fuel the trend this year. According to the National Restaurant Association, about 110,000 locations have been closed temporarily or permanently, meaning real estate is there for the taking. Businesses that shy away from in-person dining or who don’t have an established footprint can turn to ghost kitchens to serve customers.

“There is a lot of vacant restaurant space that has already been expanded with kitchens,” said Frederick. “We’re seeing ghost kitchen companies repurposing those restaurants into virtual restaurants.”

Mix kiosk in Westfield Valley Fair Mall.

Source: Mix

But the move can also leave room for oversaturation as more companies join the model.

Last year, Chili’s parent company Brinker International launched its own haunted kitchen wing concept. This year, Panera and Noodles & Co. plans to launch their own virtual kitchen concepts, which can be challenging for smaller operators, said Frederick.

“One of the biggest problems with being a virtual restaurant is that you are one of many different restaurants vying for space. It’s very hard to stand out on a delivery app when you’re ‘Joe’s Hamburger Shop’ competing with 50 other burger joints. But when you’re McDonald’s, everyone knows McDonald’s … it’s much easier to get noticed. It’s a challenge if you don’t have that brand equity. “

—CNBC’s Betsy Spring contributed to this report.


Read more: Check the latest technology news updates and information. Share this news with your friends and family to support us.