According to a recent Wall Street Journal review of property and corporate records, Travis Kalanick’s ghost kitchen startup, called CloudKitchens, has spent over $130 million over the past two years buying more than 40 properties in about two dozen cities.
Travis is co-founder and the former CEO of Uber and this latest startup provides commercial kitchens to restauranteurs who are looking for a low-cost way to launch delivery-only food concepts.
In some ways, it can be compared to coworking spaces for delivery-only restaurants. Instead of renting a full restaurant space, you lease 200-300 square feet of real estate at a lower cost address. CloudKitchens then handles all of the distribution and fulfillment, effectively lowering the barriers to entry for food startups.
Some of the properties that they have been buying include a vacant restaurant space in Miami Beach for $9.2 million (May 2020) and an industrial property in Queens, New York for $6.6 million (March 2020). They’ve also bought in cities like Portland and Las Vegas.
As you might imagine, now is a pretty good time to be buying some of these properties. And if you think about it, there are some real cost advantages to what they are doing, not to mention some co-working-style arbitrage on the real estate.
The company is apparently going to great lengths to conceal what and where they are buying. But what is perhaps more interesting is their asset-heavy approach. They’re buying lots of real estate, which is inline with what companies like Opendoor are doing, but is distinct from Uber’s asset-light approach.
It is also different from what many other ghost kitchen startups are doing. It seems that most are leasing their spaces. There has to be a reason for this difference.