Reef’s Ghost Kitchens Are Proving to Be a Messy Business

Eliot Brown, Wall Street Journal:

In addition to the three fireball incidents, Reef has faced multiple citywide shutdowns over permitting and other regulatory violations, challenges connecting to local utilities, higher-than-expected costs and a labor shortage, said former executives and managers. Many former employees described the environment at Reef as chaotic.


Reef stands out among ghost-kitchen startups given its large amount of funding — over $1.5 billion — as well as its business model. While competitors tend to rely on large shared kitchens for numerous restaurant brands, Reef’s strategy is focused on putting trailer-size kitchens in parking lots near residential areas.

As a reminder, Reef Technologies is the product of two parking companies — ParkJockey and Impark — owned and generously funded by SoftBank to transform empty stalls into pop-up versions of city amenities. I used to live near one of these trailers: calling it a “ghost” kitchen is apt, given how busy it was with vehicle traffic, yet lacking any of the presence or warmth you would associate with a restaurant. On any night, I could watch delivery drivers pull up in a little hatchback, throw on their hazards, and rush to the fluorescent glow of that trailer in the middle of an otherwise-empty surface lot to fetch someone’s chicken wings and Coke.

All of this is brought to you by parking companies that squat on valuable downtown blocks, thereby helping make cities less friendly, less walkable, and less connected.