Less than two years after Uber Eats leased kitchens in Paris to restaurateurs so they can prepare food for its online ordering and delivery platform, the San Francisco-based company has called it quits.
The Financial Times reported Uber’s “Eats Delivery Hub” has quietly abandoned the initiative as part of its goal to cut costs.
“At this point, we don’t have a desire ourselves to own real estate,” Uber Eats Vice President Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty told The Times. “We’ve had a few pilots, but no intention at this stage to start our own proprietary network of dark kitchens, or warehouses … or however you call them.”
The idea of these virtual kitchens was to allow startups and restaurants to test new menu items without a huge investment or having to build a dining room in pricey downtown areas.
Uber Eats had planned to launch 400 virtual kitchens in the United Kingdom by the end of 2018 for a total of 2,000 globally, intending to serve customers in more than 6,000 cities across 65 countries.
Still, critics have said delivery companies have failed to tell customers they are ordering from a nonexistent restaurant.
The concept was the brainchild of Uber co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick, the report said. Kalanick has sepnt heavily to establish and expand his CloudKitchens startup.
“I think the only reason why other people are doing [delivery kitchens] is because they're seeing him (Kalanick) do it,” Eric Greenspan, a Los Angeles chef and restaurant entrepreneur, told FT. Greenspan had collaborated with Kalanick on CloudKitchens, but has since cut ties. “Travis sets the pace. It’s not what interests me as a chef, or as an entrepreneur.”
Uber Eats was not the only company to build a network of commercial grade kitchens. Its rivals have tried it. But they, too, are giving it a second look as eateries try to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has taken a toll as restaurants have been shuttered worldwide, the Times wrote.
But Kalanick is not giving up.
He is developing CloudKitchens in Los Angeles, with plans to bring this concept to additional markets including Chicago, San Francisco and China.