Can ghost kitchens inject new life into mall food courts?
Brookfield Asset Management and Simon Property Group have both become investors in C3 (Creating Culinary Communities), a food tech platform aiming to lease 1,000 “ghost-kitchen” locations to malls and hotels across the country by year end.
C3, led by former hotelier Sam Nazarian, last week announced an $80 million funding round co-led by Brookfield and REEF Technology, a SoftBank-backed operator of food delivery kitchens. The funding follows a round led by Simon Property and Accor Hotels.
Ghost kitchens enable a single location to house food preparation for multiple restaurant concepts to maximize efficiency and profitability. The concept took off during the pandemic as indoor dining faced restrictions and demand for delivery soared.
C3 has more than 40 digital take-out brands, including Umami Burger, Krispy Rice and Sam’s Crispy Chicken. C3’s Citizens Go app allows consumers to place a single delivery order for items across seven to 10 virtual restaurant brands. C3 plans to open larger food hall locations, in part, to support the branding of its virtual restaurants.
A ghost kitchen can help a hotel expand its room service options. Ghost kitchens also promise, however, to shore up the profitability of mall food courts, which often face rapid turnover of banners as trends change. Operators may also see an opportunity to explore off-premise delivery, utilizing restaurant staff during downtime periods when shoppers take a break.
“Ultimately, consumers need to be able to ‘touch’ a digital concept for it to last, and C3 has found a way to convert their extremely successful digital brands into lifestyle experiences,” Kevin McCrain, managing director, real estate at Brookfield, said in a statement.
Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara, CA, in February added ghost kitchen technology to its food court in a partnership with Kitchen United. A conveyor belt transports orders within three minutes from the second floor food court to delivery drivers on the first floor.
Kate Diefenderfer, marketing director of marketing for Westfield Valley Fair, said in a statement, “With the flexibility to place one order with multiple restaurants simultaneously, regardless of location, restaurants have the ability to capitalize on the demand for food to-go, while our guests receive a customized dining experience.”
- C3, the Fastest-Growing Global Food Tech Platform Secures New Institutional Funding for Expansion from Preeminent Global Investors – C3/PRNewswire
- Shopping-Mall Giants Back Expanded Delivery-Only ‘Ghost Kitchens’ in Food Courts – The Wall Street Journal
- Brookfield Bets on Ghost Kitchens to Help Save Malls – Commercial Observer
- Ghost Kitchens Find a Home in Empty Hotels – The New York Times
- Westfield Valley Fair Joins Kitchen United to Unlock New Off Premise Restaurant Experience – Westfield Valley Fair/Business Wire
- Kitchen United Hits On A New Ghost Kitchen Format: The Mall – Restaurant Business
- Are the benefits of ghost kitchens more spectral than real? – RetailWire
- Chipotle’s expansion plans include adding ‘digital-only’ restaurants to its menu – RetailWire
- Are cloud kitchens the next evolution of food delivery? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Can ghost kitchens recast the food court opportunity for malls? Do you still see strong growth opportunities post-pandemic for ghost kitchens?