Graham Kilmer

Former Uber CEO Behind New Downtown Food Hall/Ghost Kitchen

A permit issued by the City of Milwaukee ties the new business to Travis Kalanick's CloudKitchens startup.

By - May 5th, 2022 05:54 pm
Paper Table rendering.

Paper Table rendering.

The real company behind the ghost kitchen being developed Downtown has finally been revealed, and it is none other than CloudKitchens, the new startup from former Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick.

A permit for exterior signage issued by the city of Milwaukee lists 777 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA. as one of the owners’ addresses. A business intelligence website lists that address as the headquarters for Kalanick’s CloudKitchens. The permit also identifies the application name as “Cloud Kitchens / Paper Table.”

The latter name, Paper Table, is the branding being used for the Downtown cloud kitchen. Renderings of the signage show they will advertise a “Paper Table Food Co.”

The Los Angeles address is also the listed address for City Storage Systems LLC, an entity that news reports have linked to CloudKitchens real estate acquisitions across the country.

CloudKitchens is just one company currently in a race for dominance in the new ghost kitchen market, and it has locations popping up around the country. The startup has deep pockets thanks in part to a $400 million investment from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund and financing from the Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs

The Wall Street Journal has reported how real estate is a key piece of both CloudKitchens investment offerings as well its overall business strategy. Investments in the company are backed by the real estate the company is snatching up, and the company is buying a lot of real estate. In 2020, the paper referred to CloudKitchen’s real estate holdings as a “mini real-estate empire.”

Across the country, CloudKitchens has used LLCs and other legal entities to quietly buy up real estate. In Milwaukee, the property at 733-737 N. Milwaukee St. was purchased for $850,000 by a California-based firm called KBD Holdings

A bare-bones website for KBD Holdings says it “owns and manages over $5 billion of real assets that support the needs of communities across the globe.”

The opacity of ownership for the downtown kitchen is in line with the secrecy being employed by CloudKitchens at all levels of its business. The Wall Street Journal reported that Kalanick has even instructed CloudKitchens employees not to list the company as their employer on the social-networking site LinkedIn.

Applications filed with the City of Milwaukee call the new ghost kitchen a “virtual food hall” and show that it will have room for more than a dozen vendors.

“Our ghost kitchens are designed for speed, quality, and scale, making it easy to launch a delivery restaurant with low risk and low capital,” says the CloudKitchens website.

We reported in April that MilTex Kitchen filed a permit to be the first vendor in the Milwaukee kitchen.

The business provides small, turnkey kitchens that can be set up for operation in a matter of weeks. Like the Milwaukee location, they are set up in “densely populated areas with the highest volumes of delivery orders, so you can reach more customers online.” The logistics of delivery are handled by CloudKitchens, so, in the company’s words, “all you have to do is cook.”

What’s more, ghost kitchen tenants will be able to increase the volume of their orders by “running multiple brands and cuisines out of a single kitchen.” The company says its technology allows owners to operate their entire business from a single tablet.

The payoff for tenants is described thusly: “When your labor, real estate costs, overhead, and cost of goods go down, your profits go up.”

Kalanick resigned as CEO of Uber in 2017 following pressure stemming from public revelations of the company’s unethical corporate culture and allegedly ignoring reports of sexual harassment.

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2 thoughts on “Former Uber CEO Behind New Downtown Food Hall/Ghost Kitchen”

  1. Polaris says:

    Great research…I love it! It’s amazing how much can be found online if you dig some and connect some dots!

    That said, Kalanick? Oh, God, what an awful person.

  2. Duane says:

    The “new ghost kitchen market?” Sounds kinda ridiculous, much like the opaque business model and funding by Saudi Arabia and Goldman Sachs.

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