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CloudKitchens quietly expands across Latin America

Despite having somewhere around 4,000 employees and being valued at upwards of $15 billion (2021 figure), CloudKitchens remains an incredibly secretive company. In 2020, it was reported that they had spent over $130 million in the preceding two years on properties in about two dozen cities, and this week the Financial Times reported that they have been quietly building “dark kitchens” across Latin America, alongside a new food and convenience goods business called Pik N’ Pak.

The way this all supposedly works is that the “dark kitchens” prepare the food for delivery and pick-up takeaway, and any excess space within these buildings is used to store convenience goods like over-the-counter medicines and pet foods. I guess it is literally about picking and packing various items that you can then attach to takeout orders. In both cases, the food and goods are delivered to customers using local app companies such as Uber Eats.

All of this appears to represent a shift in the supply chain for takeout food and various convenience goods. But what I am really curious about right now is what the real estate footprint of this network looks like within our cities. What is the optimal square footage of a ghost kitchen? What radius do they serve? And how does this ultimately change the landscape of our cities? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but change appears to be underway. Here’s an excerpt from the above FT article:

“…the growth of dark kitchens across Latin America has caused controversy in certain cities. The proliferation in São Paulo, the largest city in the Americas, sparked objections from residents living nearby, with banners against new facilities appearing in well-heeled neighbourhoods. The town hall has proposed local regulation of dark kitchens and earlier this year placed a temporary ban on the issue of new licences. People have complained about noise, smells, smoke and motorcycle drivers — known colloquially as motoboys — waiting outside to collect orders. One unhappy local said his son had been nicknamed “bacon” and bullied in school because of the odour on his clothes, according to Cris Monteiro, a city councilwoman.”

Travis Kalanick seems to have a knack for upsetting people and changing the way our cities operate. Although, the same could be said about a lot of other startups.

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