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After two more companies change course, what's the future of ghost kitchens?

 

Are we starting to see the long-term consequences of the ghost kitchen boom that peaked during the pandemic? While ghost kitchens have gone through ups and downs over the years — from regulatory challenges to the rise of false or misleading virtual brands — they might now be starting to wane in popularity and usefulness. Several months after we chronicled the failures (and subsequent sale of) virtual restaurant company Nextbite, Kitchen United has announced that the company has closed all of its Kitchen United MIX locations in Kroger supermarkets.

“We have closed all of Kitchen United locations operating inside of Kroger,” a Kitchen United spokesperson confirmed with Nation’s Restaurant News, though did not give more details about the reasons behind the closures. “We appreciate their partnership and support over the years. We are currently looking to pivot back into a software business.”

Kitchen United is a ghost kitchen commissary operator that traditionally combined elements of delivery technology, real estate, and virtual restaurant brands in its operations model. Now it looks like the company is shifting away from the real estate portion of its original business model as it shutters physical locations.

Kitchen United began partnering with Kroger in Aug. 2021, and started to open up virtual commissary locations inside select Kroger supermarkets. Customers were able to place orders online or via on-site kiosks where restaurant staff prepared food orders on-site. They were then able to pick up orders in person (perhaps while shopping) or have them delivered to their home via third-party delivery providers. In July 2022, Kroger was one of several major companies to announce investment with Kitchen United, as part of a $100 million fundraising round. At the time, Kitchen United was operating around 200 locations in Krogers across the United States.

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