Ghost Kitchens Going Global As C3 Announces $100 Million Saudi Deal

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Food technology platform and restaurant company C3 announced Tuesday (June 1) that it has entered into a $100 million agreement with Saudi Arabia-based investment company WK Holding. This joint venture, C3 Arabia, is split 51 percent WK Holding, 49 percent C3. The food tech platform is owned by international hospitality company SBE, which operates in five countries and has properties in Middle Eastern cities Doha, Qatar and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

“C3’s expansion throughout Saudi Arabia will democratize haute cuisine by owning the food tech space in the region and, we will assemble a best-in-class hospitality hub in the Kingdom for the region, for the world,” Layla Abuzaid, chief executive officer of WK Holding, said in a statement. “C3 in Saudi Arabia is a world-first; no other platform has such transformative capacity to unite nations.”

C3 operates over 250 virtual kitchens, and the Saudi Arabia deal brings 40 of its brands to the country. The company operates its own proprietary delivery and pickup app, Citizens Go, selling only C3 brands. While the news release notes that the company has an “array of culinary brands,” there does not appear to be a public-facing list of all C3 restaurant. None of the partial lists publicly available include more than a dozen brands, far short of the 40 restaurants included in this deal.

SBE Chief Executive Officer Sam Nazarian said in a statement, “The C3 team is committed to the Saudi kingdom’s realization of Vision 2030 and the transformation of Saudi Arabia into a global industrial powerhouse.”

Nazarian is known for his deal-making savvy and his trend-tracking approach to hospitality. A 2005 New Yorker profile noted that Nazarian’s childhood hobbies included “ironing dollar bills” and “selling grocery-store baseball cards to classmates at an inflated price.” A 2006 L.A. Times report noted that his Los Angeles night clubs typically stay open for about eight months before shutting down, undergoing a massive renovation and rebranding, and then reopening, typically with a new name.

C3 Senior Vice President of Operations Joey Simons told PYMNTS in a recent interview, “C3’s partners not only have a strong understanding of the current market, but also foresight about future market trends. In turn, C3 brings an unmatched pipeline, ability to scale and an exceptional culinary team. This allows both parties to maximize operating efficiency, provide more robust guest/customer-facing services, streamline internal services and maintain a low capital spend.”

On WK Holding’s side, the joint venture falls under the company’s food division, Smart Food Holding, which is “dedicated to the funding, incubation and innovation” of food and beverage brands. The partnership aims to reach “110 absolute locations” and “550 branded locations” within its first five years. These locations will include ghost kitchens, self-serve spots and food halls, among restaurant models. C3 Arabia will be based in the country’s capital, Riyadh. In addition to bringing international restaurant brands to Saudi Arabia, the joint venture will also, conversely, look to “identify, mentor, and incubate” Saudi chefs, with the goal to “brand and export Saudi hospitality culture to the world.”

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