The secretive “ghost kitchen” company backed by Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick has launched in Denver.
CloudKitchens’ facility at 810 Vallejo St. in Lincoln Park is now up and running, according to tenants.
BusinessDen reported last spring that the company had requested permits for the location, which is not far from the I-25/6th Avenue interchange.
Ghost kitchens are facilities where restaurants prepare food exclusively for delivery. Permit documents indicated the space would be used for 52 kitchens, with walk-in coolers and an employee lounge.
CloudKitchens’ facility isn’t the only ghost kitchen in Denver. Nextbite Brands, whose food concepts include Monster Mac, Grilled Cheese Society and Mother Clucker, leased space in Riverfront Park in 2019. And ChefReady opened in the Overland neighborhood last summer with 10 kitchen spaces.
CloudKitchens, however, is a major player in the industry, even if the extent of its operations have been challenging to pin down.
No CloudKitchens locations or employees are listed on the company’s website. Tech news site The Information reported last April that CloudKitchens had bought at least 70 properties, but only 10 appeared to be operating. In October, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company had bought more than 40 properties in nearly two dozen cities for more than $130 million.
A CloudKitchens representative said the company is “building in stealth, and don’t like to talk to the media” when BusinessDen reached out.
Kalanick resigned as Uber CEO amid controversy in 2017, and subsequently acquired a majority stake in City Storage Systems for $150 million. The business is the parent company of CloudKitchens and focuses on repurposing distressed real estate, such as parking lots or abandoned commercial buildings, and turning them into spaces suited for new industries.
Diego Berdakin, a Los Angeles-based entrepreneur and an early Uber investor, according to Recode, launched City Storage Systems in 2016
The Vallejo Street property is owned by 2045-2065 W 8th Ave LLC, which purchased it in January 2019 for $2.4 million, according to public records. Berdakin signed loan paperwork on behalf of that entity.
Avanti restaurant, sausage concept among tenants
Nearly 30 concepts have either been added to delivery apps with the address of CloudKitchens’ facility or requested permits to operate within it, according to a BusinessDen review of records.
Meta Asian Kitchen, which already has a location within the Avanti food hall in LoHi, signed a seven-month lease with CloudKitchens, according to co-founder Doris Yuen. She said the company reached out to them first, and Meta hopes to open in nearly 100 square feet next month.
“I’m nervous about expanding since this is an unknown space. But we already offer delivery and takeout at Avanti and are already doing pretty well, so I’m hoping this new model will give us a chance to bring in a new flow of customers,” Yuen said.
Meanwhile, Smokin Ace, a handmade sausage and smoked meat concept, already went live on delivery apps such as Postmates and DoorDash.
Co-founder Emily Elliot told BusinessDen her and her husband Joshua had been planning on starting a food truck under the same concept. But in September, they heard from CloudKitchens.
“Ghost kitchens are really versatile because you’re really only limited by your space and creativity,” Emily said. “We could test out multiple concepts using our same ingredients without having to change everything.”
Smokin Ace’s space is 220 square feet and has room for storage, its own refrigerator and a gas stove range, according to Emily. She said most kitchens range from 100 to 250 square feet, with the exception of the larger “luxe kitchens” that are essentially two in one. There’s also dry storage and walk-in coolers that can be rented outside of the individual kitchens, she added.
The Elliots have years of experience in the culinary scene. Joshua was previously a chef at Troy Guard’s Guard and Grace and helped the local restaurateur launch FNG in the Highlands, while Emily is currently the assistant manager at The Pig & Sprout in LoDo.
If their ghost kitchen concept succeeds, they plan to move forward with their original idea for a food truck or a brick-and-mortar.