What Kitchen Hub is offering restaurants and CPG

The "virtual food hall" is not only helping QSRs with online orders, but giving CPG brands more fulfillment space for DTC.

It bills itself as “Canada’s first virtual food hall.”

Kitchen Hub provides restaurants and CPGs with dedicated turn-key kitchen space (more colloquially referred to as “ghost kitchens”) to expand their off-premises sales, specifically for optimized for takeout and delivery operations. It currently has one location located in Etobicoke, just outside of Toronto’s downtown core.

Kitchen Hub co-founder and CEO Adam Armeland tells strategy that it takes care of logistics so brands can expand their footprint into high demand geographies outside of their delivery areas quickly and relatively cheaply, and it has designs on opening more locations across the country.

“Our overall strategy is to make restaurants hyper successful in our space,” he says. It has partnered with restaurants large and small, including Fresh, Kanga, Pai and a dessert-only concept from The Cheesecake Factory. It has also been bringing in more CPG products and other brands looking to sell direct-to-consumer, such as Greenhouse juice and frozen desserts from the likes of Ben & Jerry, Magnum and Klondike. Kitchen Hub’s CPG partners typically sign on for a minimum of a year, though restaurants sign on for a bit longer, more similar to a lease.

Rather than competing with the likes of SkipTheDishes, Kitchen Hub has enlisted it as a delivery partner. Armeland says SkipTheDishes is viewing the opportunity to bring something new to its client base, “something that allows them to stand out and drive drive customers to them. And we think that we’re already seeing it.”

Kitchen Hub has two different business models, Armeland explains. One is “cook on site,” where it creates meals with its restaurant partners’ recipes and ingredients – Armeland says Kitchen Hub is confident in launching virtual brands it knows will be be successful, or has the potential to be. The other is a “mishmash of sold through and sold by”: if it’s a finished a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream or a Greenhouse Juice, Kitchen Hub is a fulfilment partner where a brand can “put a pin on the map as if you have a store,” but it’s a digital, virtual store.

That kind of option is still useful for brands like Greenhouse, which already has a network of about a dozen retail stores in the GTA, door-step delivery service and is stocked in grocery stores, giving it extra fulfillment space and an additional pick-up location.

“Now we’ve seen a lot of CPG brands come out of the woodwork, both big and small, that are looking to get involved,” says COO Oren Borovitch. According to Borovitch, before COVID, there was a lot of tailwind toward off-premise saels, and restaurants and CPGs were coming around to the need for on-demand and ecommerce, with CPG lagging behind a little bit.

“When COVID hit, everyone realized we needed a strategy to account for the customers we are losing, that are not going to stores anymore, but want these items on demand,” he says.

But the big demand and need is still around restaurants, and to get the word out about its Etobicoke food hall, it partnered with filmmaker and podcaster Kevin Smith to turn Kitchen Hub into “Mooby’s,” a fictional fast-food chain that has appeared in several of Smith’s films, until Dec. 9.

Kitchen Hub has been using its own influencers and making a big PR push to promote the Mooby’s Pop Up, and of course, leaning into Kevin Smith’s large social media following.