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Couche-Tard invests in U.S. ghost kitchen company

California-based Kitchen United operates about 200 kitchens across 20 regions in the U.S.
A restaurant which serves many types of food called ghost kitchen, cloud kitchen, central kitchen

LAVAL, Quebec — Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., parent company to the Circle K and Couche-Tard convenience store banners, is part of the latest funding for Kitchen United, a ghost kitchen and restaurant hub technology company.

Kitchen United raised $100 million in its Series C funding round from investors that include Couche-Tard, The Kroger Co. and Restaurant Brands International, among others. After this round of investments, Kitchen United has raised $175 million to date.

Based in Pasadena, Calif., Kitchen United currently has approximately 200 operational kitchens across 20 regions. The company's proprietary technology enables customers to order from multiple prepared food and consumer goods brands on the same ticket and with the same delivery driver, all synchronized to maximize quality and payload, and minimize time and expense.

"This Series C financing further solidifies Kitchen United's leadership position in the industry. 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," said Michael Montagano, CEO and board member of Kitchen United. "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."

According to Kevin Lewis, chief marketing officer at Alimentation Couche-Tard, the service that Kitchen United provides aligns with the convenience operator's mission to make customers' lives easier.

"We see many commercial opportunities in partnering with Kitchen United as it prepares for considerable scale. 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," he said.

Kitchen United, which has seen triple-digit top-line growth for three consecutive years, plans to significantly increase its technological and physical footprint in the near term. The company will continue its focus on Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and Texas as key markets with continued expansion throughout other U.S. trade areas. 

Plans also include to further evolve Kitchen United's multi-concept ordering technology platform, Kitchen United OS, which is used by customers like Burger King, Popeyes, Chick-fil-A, Portillo's, Panera Bread, Dog Haus, Wingstop and Brinker International.

The investment in Kitchen United is another step in Couche-Tard's journey in exploring ways the Circle K brand can extend beyond physical stores. Earlier this year, the company announced it has invested nearly $55 million of its Circle K Venture Fund's initial $100 million in companies that are developing forward-looking solutions that enhance the customer experience in stores and beyond, improve efficiency and make customers' lives easier every day.

Since the Fund's 2020 inception, Couche-Tard has secured equity stakes in multiple entrepreneurial companies that are shaping the future of convenience, forming collaborative partnerships and entering into agreements to test and commercialize their innovations.

Couche-Tard's most recent investments are Food Rocket and Farmstead, U.S.-based companies that offer delivery of convenience, grocery and pantry items at competitive prices. The convenience operator is partnering with them to pilot commercial programs that will test and learn the best approaches to competing in the world of delivery and distribution for its urban and suburban customers.

Kitchen United was founded in 2017. The company offers a value-driven, low-risk way for emerging and established restaurant brands to enter into new markets, grow revenue through off-premises dining and expand delivery areas.

Laval-based Couche-Tard operates in 24 countries and territories, with more than 14,000 stores, of which approximately 10,700 offer road transportation fuel. With its well-known Couche-Tard and Circle K banners, it is one of the largest independent convenience store operators in the United States, and it is a leader in the convenience store industry and road transportation fuel retail in Canada, Scandinavia, the Baltics, as well as in Ireland. It also has an important presence in Poland and Hong Kong SAR. 

-Originally published at Convenience Store News - U.S.

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