Pasadena-Based Restaurant Industry Innovator Secures $10 Million in Funding

Published : Tuesday, October 9, 2018 | 4:39 AM

A Pasadena-based company seeking to update the restaurant industry for the 21st Century has secured $10 million in funding from a group of investors led by GV, formerly known as Google Ventures.

Kitchen United currently has one location at 55 South Madison Ave. But it has ambitious plans.

“By the end of 2019, we’ll be in a probably somewhere between 20 and 30 locations nationwide,” CEO Jim Collins said.

That vision took a major leap forward with the announcement Monday that the company has closed its first major funding round. Cali Group, which is an initial investor in Kitchen United, and other investors also joined in backing the company with GV.

The idea behind Kitchen United is to make the process of opening and running a restaurant as efficient and affordable as possible while taking advantage of the exploding app-based food delivery industry, CEO Jim Collins said.

As many as 20 different businesses share a large single facility with a shared kitchen, and each gets its own four-walled space, as well, according to Collins.

“The restaurants that operate in our space can operate with just cooks, and then the rest of the labor is accomplished by our Kitchen United staff, that does everything from receive products in the morning to washing cooking implements, all that kind of stuff,” he said. “So being able to utilize that shared labor pool allows the restaurants to achieve higher margins than they would’ve in a traditional dining room.”

The idea is meant to take advantage of the burgeoning app-based food delivery industry, Collins said.

“From the perspective of the delivery of service providers — [like] Postmates and Grubhub and Doordash — the benefit is that there’s a whole bunch of restaurants in one facility that’s designed to be extremely efficient in terms of how it provide access for delivery drivers.”

Restaurants can provide pick-up and catering services, as well, representatives said.

Kitchen United offers data analysis to help restaurateurs succeed, according to the company.

“Kitchen United leverages aggregate data to identify the best locations for its ‘Kitchen Centers,’ which are facilities that can house 10-20 restaurants in converted warehouses, as well as big box and light industrial locations,” the company said in a written statement.

“Data on local demographics are overlaid with cuisine-specific demand mapping to determine the best locations for these centers, as well as the best partner fit from its growing list of participating restaurants,” the statement continues.

If desired, restaurants in the facility can receive personalized data for their businesses, according to the company statement. “Examples of these functions include flagging unpopular menu choices, allowing restaurants to reduce menu size, and tailoring labor size based on demand.”

Collins said the Pasadena location contains five restaurants and will soon expand to seven.

“The restaurants who are there are doing great and it’s been a very strong validation of the business premise and a great way for us to test and learn so that we know more as we go forward and open new locations.”

The storied 87-year-old Canter’s Deli from the Fairfax District in Los Angeles opened its third location at Kitchen United in Pasadena. And owner Marc Canter said it’s working out great so far.

“I think it’s the way of the future,” he said.

More and more orders are being served by way of delivery service, Canter said.

“But besides that, at Kitchen United, people that live in that neighborhood or work in that area could come in and order, not just from Canter’s, but they can order from the five or six other little places that are there,” he said

“You’re only having a couple of employees there and you don’t have to worry about the whole brick-and-mortar and opening the restaurant and having a dishwasher and a busboy and waitresses,” he said. “So in the end, it works out.”

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