Ghost kitchen provider Kitchen United will bring its services to potentially hundreds of shopping malls under a new partnership with giant mall owner Simon Property Group.
It will start with two malls, Del Amo Fashion Center near Los Angeles and Roosevelt Field on Long Island. They will use KU's technology to power pickup and delivery for the food court, essentially turning each mall into a giant ghost kitchen complete with its own drive-thru.
The goal is to eventually bring the program, called Grab Go Eat, to all of Simon’s 195 properties nationwide, said KU CEO Michael Montagano.
Long-term, the system could expand to include retail stores at the malls in addition to restaurants, meaning customers could get their cheeseburger delivered with a side of pants.
“Our vision for it is that we’re building physical and technological infrastructure that powers Simon malls for off-premise,” Montagano said. “It certainly is the underlying framework for something much larger.”
Here’s how Grab Go Eat will work, for now:
Restaurants at the two malls will start using Kitchen United’s Mix system to accept digital orders. Customers can order from anywhere using KU’s app or website, or from kiosks at the mall, and can combine items from multiple restaurants into one transaction.
Once the food is ready, KU employees will grab the order, assembling it from multiple restaurants if necessary, and bring it to one of a few dropoff points in the mall: a pickup locker, a customer’s table in the dining area, or an expo center on the first floor, which will act as a kind of drive-thru for delivery drivers and pickup customers.
Kitchen United earns a commission on each order processed by its system.
The company has a similar arrangement with Westfield Valley Fair mall in Santa Clara, Calif., where it has been operating for about a year.
The idea is to generate incremental revenue for mall restaurants—which were struggling even before the pandemic— while also making ordering food more convenient for people both in and outside of the building.
Delivery drivers, for instance, will no longer have to park and walk to and from the food court to get an order. Mall employees can save time during their lunch break by ordering online and picking up their meal at the nearest locker.
The company expects delivery to be the most popular use case for Grab Go Eat, Montagano said.
Kitchen United has gotten increasingly creative with how it uses its Mix technology as it has expanded from warehouse-like kitchen centers to food halls and restaurants in grocery stores—always with an emphasis on off-premise.
One format has not necessarily proven to be more successful than another, Montagano said.
“We’re excited about all of them, and I think they’re all actually very similar,” he said. “Our focus is to be at Main and Main and develop as much volume to our restaurant partners through omnichannel,” whether that’s in a grocery store, food court, mall or purpose-built site.
Kitchen United currently has 12 locations in five states, with five more scheduled to open soon.
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