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"a little giggier" | spooky kitchens #26
July 8th, 2022. *A most satisfying midsummer yawn.* Short week, short news. Mostly delivery.
Happy Friday y’all,
First thing’s first: it’s officially summertime sleepy season. The people are still in the office (or the home office), the work is still getting done, but the news has slowed to a crawl. We’ll keep it short on this short week.
And just a quick reminder: all green text is linked.* (*not always to anything important)
So what happened this week? (TL;DR)
Not all that much. Read on, Macduff.
🧓 There’s nothing new about Amped Kitchens’ model…but that doesn’t mean it’s bad (“Amped Kitchens Has A New Cooking Recipe” Michael Aushenker, LA Business Journal). In 2018, as I was getting started at Kitchen United, LA Prep — the original name of Amped Kitchens — was probably the biggest commercial kitchen facility in Los Angeles, among a fairly small handful of commercial kitchens in the entire county. KU had a commercial kitchen component back then — by that I mean, kitchens not just for restaurants, but for food truckers, caterers, CPG & other food makers — and we garnered interest from a fair few LA Prep tenants. Which isn’t to say that LA Prep was subpar; but it was expensive, and at the time, definitely overcrowded. And our kitchen, formerly half of the ill-fated Le Cordon Bleu school in Pasadena, was roomy, sunny, & clean (the opposite of practically every professional kitchen outside of ultra-fine dining). Plus, restaurants seemed intrigued by our offer to allow tenants to actually serve hot food for pickup & delivery. Thus KU had some of its first clients.
Today ghost kitchens obviously have the spotlight, but commercial kitchens will absolutely endure. They’re a necessity for food operations outside the traditional four-walled restaurant, and at this point, rarely pricier than a mainstream ghost space (if not even cheaper, considering the real estate is usually more towards the fringe of a city). Commercial kitchens’ model, predicated on serving a wide variety of food businesses, is sturdier than any ghost kitchen’s. So while I’ve given them short shrift in the past (frankly, deserved for those commercial kitchens that market themselves as viable ghost kitchens, which they are frequently not), they remain an indelible & unsung part of the modern food business landscape.
🏈 DoorDash decides offense is the best defense (“DoorDash to 'fast forward' growth ambitions in face of headwinds: Co-Founder and CTO” Akiko Fujita, Yahoo Finance). Asked if DoorDash’s focus in the near future would be to pursue growth or profitability, the company’s CTO replied, “Both” (there’s more to the interview than that, but that’s the gist). The timing of this optimism is somewhat suspect, given the strained state of the economy and fragility of tech (especially delivery) stocks. Despite this proclamation that they will continue to boldly deliver where no Dasher has delivered before – with an international acquisition to boot – the numbers are slowing for DoorDash, in hiring and in revenue growth, and their stock is “down 75% from its 52-week high.” The question is, how much of those results can be chalked up to macro pressures (an easy out), and how much is a signal that this “Advance, advance, advance” strategy, which has always been DoorDash’s modus operandi, is running out of steam in the face of real headwinds?
👍 The Grubhub x Prime partnership is a step but not a leap (“Amazon Prime Grubhub Deal: What to Know” Christina Morales, New York Times). Amazon Prime members can now access the benefits of a Grubhub+ membership (free delivery + slight discounts) for free. The deal between the two pillars of retail & food delivery lasts for the next year, at which time either may opt out. For Prime customers, it’s a great deal (I’ve already clicked through to sign up; why not?); for Grubhub, it’s…well, it’s one positive headline, at least. And a door open to a vast userbase with a decent interest overlap and strong incentive to try it out. Get it while it’s hot, kids.
🏴☠️️ The UK’s gig economy gets a little giggier (“Powering up the 'dark hub': British startup debuts new delivery model” James Murray, Green Biz). Introducing “dark hubs,” or electric small-vehicle stations (bikes, mopeds, & scooters) designed for short-term rental by delivery couriers, enabling practically anyone to step out for a cheeky delivery run at any moment. I don’t know that that’s the most economical way to earn a delivery wage, but it does add an extra layer of flexibility to the world’s most-flexible industry. And it’s even zero-emission.
🥡 Dessert: How Chinese food delivery extended the delivery market beyond pizza (“Born out of struggle, Chinese food delivery opened doors to different cuisines” Evan Kleiman, KCRW’s Good Food podcast). An excellent dive into the history of Chinese cuisine as the vanguard of non-circular-flatbread delivered foods.
That’s spooky kitchens.
P.S. If you’re just jumping into ghost kitchens and want to learn more, check out my ghostly glossary and spooky kitchens ghost kitchen cheat sheet. They’re there to help make sense of this weird and wild west.
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