The 10,500-square-foot Wells Street Market space has been vacant since September, and what was once an alluring downtown spot isn’t so attractive during COVID-19. But four months later, Kitchen United, a California-based ghost kitchen company has announced it will take over the space at 222 N. Wells Street. The company, which entered the Chicago market in late 2019 with a River North location, hasn’t revealed when the Loop location will debut.
This move will expand Kitchen United’s delivery footprint, bringing more of its brands to Downtown Chicago. The new location will follow a similar design as the company’s first Chicago ghost kitchen at 831 N. Sedgwick with a few key differences, according to a rep. The space will eventually serve as a de facto food hall when it unveils indoor and outdoor seating, something absent from the Sedgwick location. It’ll contain 10 kitchen spaces with a central order and pickup area in the middle.
Both outposts will operate allow customers to get food from multiple restaurants in one orders, paying for it all with one bill. It’s a similar approach to that seen at Chowbus, a third party that specializes in delivering Asian food from Chinatown restaurants.
There’s no word on what restaurants will occupy the ghost kitchen. The Sedgwick location currently houses chains including Jollibee, Portillo’s Panera Bread, Chick-fil-A, and Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill — a list that stokes concerns among some local restaurant owners that national chains will price out small, independent businesses. It’s similar to worries surrounding real estate in neighborhoods like West Loop, where only those with major investors can afford property.
Though ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve become a staple of the hospitality industry since the virus shuttered dining rooms across Chicago. Kitchen United has partnered with third-party delivery companies — another prominent pandemic feature — such as Grubhub, Seamless, Uber Eats and DoorDash. While smaller restaurants bemoan these companies for predatory practices, including commission fees — which are now capped at 15 percent under a Chicago ordinance — Kitchen United and other similar companies welcome them.
A spokesperson says to expect more details, including an opening date, in early February.
Kitchen United Mix, 222 N. Wells Street, Scheduled opening date is unknown.