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Kroger-Kitchen United MIX-Houston store.jpg The Kroger Co.
The Kroger Co. now has Kitchen United MIX 'restaurant hubs' in three stores, including Kroger supermarkets in Dallas and Houston and a Ralph's grocery store in Westwood, Calif.

Kroger, Couche-Tard invest in Kitchen United

Ghost kitchen operator receives new funding to drive U.S. expansion

Supermarket giant The Kroger Co. and convenience store giant Alimentation Couche-Tard took part in a new funding round for “restaurant hub” operator Kitchen United.

Pasadena, Calif.-based Kitchen United on Monday announced $100 million in Series C funding from investors Kroger, Circle K parent Couche-Tard, Restaurant Brands International, B. Riley Venture Capital, shopping center behemoth Simon, Phillips Edison & Co. and The HAVI Group.

On completion of the round, Kitchen United said its total fundraising to date rose to approximately $175 million. The company noted that includes “strong participation” from all existing institutional and strategic investors (GV, Fidelity Investments Canada ULC-managed funds, RXR, DivcoWest, Cali Group, GoldenArc Capital, General Global Capital and Rich Product Corp.) plus “significant investments” from Kitchen United founders Harry Tsao and John Miller, Kitchen United CEO Michael Montagano and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.

Under its Kitchen United MIX banner, Kitchen United operates ghost kitchens that provide “virtual food courts” at various venues, including stores, malls and other public spaces. Customers place orders online, through a mobile device or via an in-person ordering kiosk using Kitchen United’s MIX platform and then pick up their meals on-site or have them delivered. Restaurant staff prepare the orders, with delivery service fees set by third-party providers.

“We see many commercial opportunities in partnering with Kitchen United as it prepares for considerable scale,” Kevin Lewis, chief marketing officer at Toronto-based Alimentation Couche-Tard, which operates more than 14,000 convenience and/or fuel stores in 24 countries and territories. “We believe this business stands apart from other industry players with its centralized locations, multi-format offerings, experienced management team and mature technology stack — all of which align with Circle K’s mission to make our customers’ lives a little easier every day as we work together to shape the future of convenience.”

Last week, Kitchen United said it opened its third MIX location inside a Kroger Co. supermarket, this time at the grocer’s Kroger-banner store at 5665 East Mockingbird La. in Dallas. Since the national partnership with Kitchen United was unveiled last August, Kroger opened restaurant kitchens inside a Ralph’s supermarket in Westwood, Calif., in January and inside a Kroger grocery store in Houston in February.

“When our customers think of food, they think of Kroger,” Dan De La Rosa, group vice president of fresh merchandising for Cincinnati-based Kroger, commented on the opening of the Kitchen United MIX in the Dallas Kroger store. “The Kitchen United collaboration provides the fresh, on-demand meals our customers crave. It is one more innovative example of how Kroger is fulfilling its commitment to anything, anywhere, anytime.”

Besides Kroger, in the past two years, Kitchen United also has unveiled collaborations at Simon mall properties nationwide. The company said it now has about 200 operational kitchens across 20 regions — with plans to “significantly increase its technological and physical footprint in the near term — and has seen triple-digit, top-line growth for three straight years.

Kitchen United added that its expansion will continue to focus on key U.S. markets such as Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and Texas as well as enhance its multi-concept ordering platform Kitchen United OS for use by food operators including Burger King, Popeyes, Chick-Fil-A., Portillo’s, Panera Bread, Dog Haus, Wingstop and Brinker International.

“This Series C financing further solidifies Kitchen United’s leadership position in the industry,” Montagano stated. “Kitchen United uniquely sits at the intersection of technology, food and real estate. Our solution serves as the technological and physical infrastructure revolutionizing centrally located distribution hubs through streamlining off-premises ordering and consumption. To that end, we are thrilled to partner with leading investors across grocery, convenience, restaurants, malls, packaging, logistics, distribution, automation, and urban and suburban real estate development.”

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