Yesterday, ghost kitchen operator Kitchen United announced that they had acquired Zuul, a ghost kitchen know-how and consulting companies firm, for an undisclosed sum.
In keeping with the announcement, Kitchen United will deliver over the manager workforce and transition Zuul’s New York Metropolis facility to a Kitchen United MIX kitchen middle.
The corporate additionally introduced that it will combine Zuul’s ZuulOS know-how platform. From the announcement: ZuulOS allows operators to create their very own digital meals halls and fulfill multi-brand orders effortlessly. The corporate additionally powers native on-line ordering and batched deliveries with a associate community to offer an environment friendly supply mannequin that can marry nicely with Kitchen United’s proprietary know-how platform MIX.
Whereas the addition of a NYC location and the executives is necessary, a lot of the announcement targeted on the addition of Zuul’s know-how platform, ZuulOS, to the Kitchen United providing. What’s attention-grabbing is Kitchen United already has its personal tech platform known as MIX, which is, nicely, a mixture of each consumer-facing components in addition to some back-of-house supply administration items.
So what does Kitchen United get with ZuulOS? ZuulOS has white-label consumer-facing components, however its core is a multi-brand digital restaurant administration platform. ZuulOS, which has its roots within the acquisition of OnTray in 2019, has accounting, menu-building, and kitchens operations parts. Throw in Zuul’s consulting companies arm, and it rounds out Kitchen United’s capacity to spin up new digital meals halls for corporations utilizing its know-how and shared kitchen merchandise.
For Zuul, whereas it may well’t be stated for positive (since phrases weren’t disclosed), chances are high the acquisition might be not the kind of exit imagined when they announced that they had raised $9 million simply over a yr in the past. Six months after the funding information, it turned clear the corporate was trying to find itself because it introduced the ZuulOS platform and transitioned away from being a ghost kitchen operator (except for the one NYC location) to being a Saas/platform firm. The information of this deal marks the completion of the corporate’s journey because it finds a house with one of many business’s largest gamers.
Let the ghost kitchen market consolidation start
Whereas this is without doubt one of the most vital acquisitions to date within the ghost kitchen area, it’s seemingly solely the beginning of a wave of consolidation.
Whilst funding nonetheless flows into the ghost kitchen and digital restaurant area, many operators have realized that operating an in depth community of multitenant kitchens is a capital-intensive enterprise. A lot of the latest funding within the broader ghost kitchen and digital restaurant area has gone to companies which are creating platforms that make it straightforward for restaurant manufacturers to launch new digital manufacturers through hosted kitchen models. Whereas some corporations, like Reef, proceed down the heavy capex path powered by huge raises, enterprise and company capital has began emigrate in the direction of hosted kitchen fashions and digital restaurant manufacturers that may make the most of underutilized kitchen capability in present QSRs or independents.
This doesn’t imply we gained’t proceed to see a lot of creativity over the following 5 to 10 years wherein operators construct each new kitchens with restricted entrance of home and fully darkish kitchens. The belief within the restaurant, grocery and meals service market that the standard restaurant mannequin of constructing a kitchen and entrance of home for each single location is outdated within the age of supply and digital ordering continues to be a sound one, and the good recalibration in the direction of new fashions like hub & spoke and digital meals halls will proceed apace.
A part of the massive shift in the direction of the digital eating actuality of in the present day is discovering out what works finest for patrons and its operations whereas optimizing the enterprise mannequin from a capex and opex perspective. For his or her half, Kitchen United, one of many early pioneers within the area, has made the transition from a ‘heavy capex’ mannequin to 1 that’s extra versatile, working with everybody from big grocery store chains to arrange ghost kitchens to bringing food hall formats to large buying facilities. This deal ought to solely assist the corporate stay a key participant because the business evolves and finds its approach.