Kitchen United, a delivery-focused food incubator chain based in Pasadena, California is expanding to a second Chicago location in Fulton Market that will house 10 to 15 restaurants. The space at 201 N. Elizabeth Street in Fulton Market should be over 10,000 square feet, and include large and small shared kitchens, plus a small front-of-house area with limited seating. The new space is slated to open later this year, but there’s no official date yet. Management is also in the process of setting up shops in Atlanta and Austin.
The business capitalizes on increasing demand for delivery dining and steep competition between food delivery apps. Sometimes referred to as a “cloud kitchen,” Kitchen United emphasizes delivery and catering through third-party providers, including Uber Eats and Postmates. Established restaurants may use the fully equipped kitchen spaces to meet high demand and expand their customer base, and emerging businesses can use the location as a launch pad. Kitchen United also provides technology platforms, facility maintenance, and storage.
The group already runs a Chicago kitchen center in River North at 825 N. Sedgwick Street, and restaurant partners include Steingold’s of Chicago, which will also be opening a location inside Fulton Galley food hall. Kitchen United’s vice president of consumer marketing Mike Mirkil wouldn’t disclose which Chicago restaurants and caterers will be a part of the Fulton Market location but said the River North kitchen has stimulated a good deal of interest from local operators.
“All that learning we put into River North is going to be translated to Fulton Market,” he said. “We’re getting smarter as we go.”
Management has plans to expand in 2019, with new sites in Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, New York, Phoenix, and Columbus, Ohio. The company uses comprehensive data including demographics, income levels, and traffic patterns to select locations, said COO Meredith Sandland. Fulton Market’s dense millennial and Gen Z populations are predisposed to ordering delivery meals. That makes the area a prime location for the shared kitchen, Mirkil said.
Virtual restaurants are already trendy in Chicago. Lincoln Park is home to Lettuce Entertain You’s cloud kitchen inside Oyster Bah, and West Town’s WHISK offers a special menu exclusive to Uber Eats. Not all these endeavors are successful, however: a shared kitchen in Lakeview that housed restaurants including Blue Crown Wings and F.I.S.H Poke Bar on Southport Avenue closed in 2017.