An “internet food court” website seemingly associated with Uber Co-Founder Travis Kalanick's ghost kitchens business appears to have vanished, with representatives saying someone else had gone forward with the idea without authorization, according to the Financial Times.
The website appeared along with a press release to reporters earlier this week, promising the digital equivalent of a mall food court and inferring an association with Kalanick's business in various social media posts and press releases.
Kalanick's ghost kitchen concept, under the name CloudKitchens, has chefs working to make food from popular restaurant brands and then have the food delivered via one of the usual apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash, etc. The ghost kitchens are typically set up in lower-income areas so as to reduce overhead costs.
People can also walk up in person to these locations and order, although this mode of ordering has been shut down due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Kalanick has been growing a network of ghost kitchens for preparing food around the world, having investments and acquisitions in the U.K., India, China and South Korea.
On Wednesday (April 8), the “internet food court” website touted in the media blitz was no longer there. Tweets were deleted, and the restaurants involved were no longer listed on the app under the same “internet food court” brand, instead being listed separately.
There is also a physical location bearing the name “Internet Food Court,” located in Los Angeles, and officials with CloudKitchens holding company, City Storage Systems, said they are investigating this as well, concerned about its validity.
Kalanick's representative said Kalanick was "very upset" that someone had used his name without his knowledge to promote something that could have been seen as capitalizing on the current virus pandemic. City Storage Systems said this had been the work of a rogue individual going above their station. A spokeswoman said the released materials had contained errors and misrepresentations about the company.
The ghost kitchens concept has increased in popularity recently, popping up in old malls and capitalizing on the growing trend of mobile food ordering and on-the-go life.