Reef Technology — the Miami, Fla.-based parking facilities technology company — has entered the world of the virtual restaurant with its Reef Kitchens division, which will put delivery-based cloud kitchens inside their parking facilities.
Reef Technology has 5,000 parking facilities across North America, calling each of their parking garages and lots an “ecosystem hub” with a digital platform that offers ticketless parking for customers. Several years ago, Reef Technology’s legacy company ParkJockey began partnering with UK-based food delivery company Deliveroo to combine their parking real estate with demand-based delivery services.
In early 2019, SoftBank Vision fund made a “substantial investment” (speculated at hundreds of millions of dollars) into what was then known as ParkJockey. The company relaunched the brand as Reef Technology in June, with plans to move beyond simply parking garages.
Soon after, Reef Technology took their delivery-only restaurant kitchen concept to the U.S., where they began putting virtual restaurants and cloud or ghost kitchens inside their high-tech parking facilities, and currently partner with all of the major U.S. food delivery services, including Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub.
“People value their time and convenience and one example where [we’ve looked into that] is our Reef Kitchens,” Reef Technology CMO Alan Cohen said. “Restaurants have this ability to expand their footprint without spending any capital by using one of our delivery-only kitchens. Then, people who live within that market radius can get their food hot and fresh whenever they want simple because there is a Reef Kitchen somewhere nearby.”
Reef Technology calls their in-garage ghost kitchens, “vessels” and customizes their capabilities based on customer needs. Some house only one brand, but the kitchens are capable of hosting up to five restaurants in one vessel.
“People don’t realize that with as little as three parking spaces we can put in a kitchen,” Cohen said. “It’s not open to the public but inside is a full-blown operation with chefs and everything you’d expect.”
Cohen said that Reef Technology has divided their delivery goals into thirds. The first goal is to work with already-established brands to expand their delivery reach. For example, Reef recently started a partnership with Miami-based, vegetarian fast-casual concept, Della Bowls. Della Bowls was originally operating out of a food truck and was about to get shut down until they were able to move their business into a Reef Kitchen. Now, they exist inside delivery apps (and in a Reef parking garage)to serve their plant-based lunch bowls.
But ghost kitchens don’t even have to house traditional restaurant brands. Celebrity chef Rachael Ray partnered with Uber Eats and Reef Kitchens to bring her famous recipes — from fettucine alla vodka to Buffalo chicken chili — to select markets in New York City.
The second goal for the brand is to start working with larger restaurant chains that are looking to expand into new markets, although Cohen did not name any restaurant chain partnerships in the works. The third leg of the stool is to create their own internal brands that don’t exist outside of Reef Technology.
“When we go into a market we do data analysis to figure out consumer needs in the community, and because of our strong focus on food quality and expertise in food prep, we can create our own virtual brands to better serve the needs of the market,” Cohen said.
The company recently launched Wings and Things out of Miami, an internally created virtual restaurant that sells wings, mozzarella sticks, and fries through delivery partners, Postmates, Grubhub and DoorDash.
But don’t expect the Reef name to pop up anytime on your Grubhub app:
“We’re not branding ourselves; we’re just getting the food products onto the platform,” Cohen added.
But since ghost kitchens are quickly becoming the next big thing in the restaurant industry, Reef will have to find ways to stand out from the competition. Cohen said that they already have a leg up on the competition because of their network of 5,000+ garages and parking lots:
“We are able to not only provide a location [for brands], but we have the ability to go into a market and have a meaningful presence all because of the strength of our real estate network,” Cohen said.
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