Why Kitchen Podular is the next-gen of restaurant catering and delivery
By Valerie Killifer
The room was noisy. Filled with off-premise heavy hitters. The 2018 Takeout, Delivery & Catering Symposium was underway. Drinks flowed, conversations abounded, and two dynamic, industry executives were attracting a lot of attention.
What Michael Manion and Frank Han brought to the table wasn’t the next wave of operational headaches. Rather, they came armed with a solution for the often-crowded, front-of-house catering and delivery counter: Kitchen Podular.
Founded by Manion, who serves as CEO, Kitchen Podular is a build-from-scratch pod (also known as a ghost kitchen) designed with lockers for order pickup, a make-line for food preparation and plenty of room for employees. These podular kitchens are changing the way restaurants view their off-premise business, and signaling a new direction for the industry.
“With the third-party delivery services driving sales in today’s market, margins are slim when all is said and done,” says Manion. “Restaurants are looking for ways to adapt to this new cost without raising menu prices. By lowering the production costs of these delivery orders, we provide operators new ways to increase profits. We give them the ability to establish a dedicated production line without the retail overhead, but still maintain retail revenues. On top of that, these ghost kitchens are zero-risk based assets. Don’t like the location? Pick it up and move it. You simply can’t do that with tenant improvements.”
With an alliance with NCR, and partnerships in place with companies such as Chowly, MonkeyMedia Software, and The Catering Institute, the pods come equipped to be completely ‘plug-and-play’. Built from scratch, they can be constructed to fit (almost) any size and space. All they need is water, sewage and gas. In addition, the company has lockers designed to handle frozen, refrigerated, and ambient temperature lockers and will soon have heated smart lockers.
According to Manion, their approach is to allow each restaurant group to put a small footprint ghost kitchen on their existing real estate, creating a dedicated production line focused on delivery and catering.
“As the hub of the new ecosystem giving them the tools and platforms to adapt, everything plugs into us. Our industry alliances allow us to provide these chain restaurants with a complete solution to conquer their delivery and catering problem. The growth potential is there, Deliveroo is only one such example.”
Since launching Kitchen Podular, Manion and his team have been approached by other foodservice segments experiencing change and transformation. The verticals run from gas stations to convenience stores, grocery stores, and dry cleaners.
“We’re here to take the overflow and the burden off the restaurant and to keep costs down,” Manion said. “We’ve also developed some ideas of where to place these very cheaply – to give operators a way to expand their footprint with delivery. The restaurants aren’t set up for it so how do they survive?”
“It’s an exciting time,” he notes. “We are going in and teaching people what to do and then getting out of the way. These brands know how to control their own destiny. They know how to run their own business, so we let them do it. But at the end of the day, this is now a need rather than a want.”