‘Cloud kitchens’ is an oxymoron

The biggest wave in consumer products right now has all the hallmarks of another bubble of misplaced investor expectations and sadly lower margins.

Cloud kitchens (the category, and not just CloudKitchens the startup service) is essentially WeWork for restaurant kitchens. Instead of buying an expensive restaurant site on a heavily-walked street, a cloud kitchen is developed in a cheaper locale (an industrial district perhaps), with dozens of kitchen stations that are individually rentable for short periods of time by chefs and restaurant proprietors.

It’s a market that has exploded this year. CloudKitchens, which has been funded by former Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick, is perhaps the most well-known example, but others are competing, and none more so than meal delivery companies. DoorDash announced that it was opening a shared kitchen in Redwood City just this week, Amazon has announced it is getting in the game, and around the world, companies like India-based transportation network Ola are building out their own shared kitchens.

DoorDash opens a shared kitchen in Redwood City

That has led to laudatory headlines galore. Mike Isaac and David Yaffe-Bellany talk about “the rise of the virtual restaurant” at the New York Times, while Douglas

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