Digital kitchen operator C3 nabs an $80M investment

The fast-growing virtual brand company will triple its footprint through Reef Kitchens while also courting big real estate developers.
C3 ghost kitchen
Photograph courtesy of C3

C3, a tech-focused restaurant company that is doing a little bit of everything, has raised $80 million to help expand its fast-growing network of ghost kitchens, brick-and-mortar restaurants and food halls. 

Leading the massive fundraise are large real estate investor Brookfield Asset Management and ghost kitchen provider Reef Technology. As part of the deal, Reef will bring C3 concepts to 500 new locations through its parking lot-based kitchen units—tripling C3's current footprint.

The news caps a whirlwind of recent developments for C3, an offshoot of businessman Sam Nazarian's SBE Entertainment Group. The company has accumulated more than 40 restaurant brands, including Umami Burger, Krispy Rice and EllaMia, which it operates across a network of physical restaurants, ghost kitchens, hotels, apartment buildings, and, soon, food halls, combining a brick-and-mortar presence with an emphasis on digital. In April, it launched its own app, called Citizens Go, that allows customers to order from multiple C3 brands at once with no service charges or delivery fees.

As of February, C3 operated 250 digital kitchens across the U.S.

The new investment sees the company positioning itself as an opportunity for real estate developers. It includes a commitment by the company to "lease at a variety of mixed-use, retail, and hospitality spaces helmed by the world's leading real estate developers" for either food halls or individual restaurant locations. Those restaurants would double as ghost kitchens for multiple C3 concepts available through the Citizens Go app. 

Kevin McCrain, managing director for Brookfield's real estate group, touted C3's combination of technology and hospitality.

"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 ... all of which can be executed out of a single real estate space," he said in a statement. "Nobody else is doing this to C3's level."

McCrain is joining C3's board as part of the investment.

C3 (which stands for Creating Culinary Communities) is among a new wave of ghost kitchen companies that are focusing on both the in-person and off-premise channels. Kitchen United, for instance, recently opened its first virtual food hall in the heart of downtown Chicago. Local Kitchens last month raised $25 million to open more of its digital food halls. And Ghost Kitchen Brands is growing primarily through customer-facing locations inside Walmarts

Other contributors to C3's Series B round were Egon Durban and Greg Mondre, co-CEOs of tech investor Silver Lake Management; and Dean Adler, co-founder of real estate investment firm Lubert-Adler.

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