Will the Kitchen Get Ubered Out of Existence?

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©. Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Uber founder Travis Kalanick's new company runs "CloudKitchens" for cooks without restaurants. This will be big.

Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber, is now building a worldwide network of commercial kitchens designed for food delivery services. According to the Financial Times, the CloudKitchen business is all a bit hush-hush still, but Kalanick has opened kitchens in Los Angeles and is checking out London.

Mr Kalanick is hoping to tap into a trend that has sparked huge growth at Uber Eats and other food delivery services such as Deliveroo.... CloudKitchens claims to offer lower upfront and operational costs than chefs independently leasing and fitting out their own food preparation facilities. Deliveroo has also experimented with these so-called “dark kitchens”, sometimes using shipping containers in car parks.

Advantages/ CloudKitchens/Screen capture

On the CloudKitchen website, they note that "the food delivery market is worth over $35 billion per year in the US, and that figure keeps growing." They promise lower upfront costs, lower operating costs and faster expansion for successful operations.

credit: RCA/ Whirlpool

© RCA/ Whirlpool

And why is this on TreeHugger? Because we discussed this trend earlier, the impact of food delivery, how the way the way we eat is changing, and how the design of kitchens is changing too. As Arwa Mahdawi of the Guardian put it, “While the kitchen used to be the heart of the home, it’s becoming more like an appendix.” We have spent some time discussing the future of the kitchen, most recently even asking if it has a future at all. I have noted that one now sees big open hobby kitchens, but that most "cooking" is now different members of the family using small appliances that are kept in the "messy kitchen" where everyone is nuking their dinner, pumping their Kuerig and toasting their Eggos.

Consultant Eddie Yoon notes in the Harvard Business Review that cooking is being reduced to "a niche activity that a few people do only some of the time." He has found that people fall into three groups, and that only 10 percent love to cook, 45 percent hate it, and 45 percent tolerate it because they have to do it. Mr. Kalanick has a very big market. Yoon writes:

I’ve come to think of cooking as being similar to sewing. As recently as the early 20th century, many people sewed their own clothing. Today the vast majority of Americans buy clothing made by someone else; the tiny minority who still buy fabric and raw materials do it mainly as a hobby.
commercial kitchen


There are lots of good reasons why people prefer buying clothes to making them; many of the same reasons apply to cooking. In the commercial kitchen they have better equipment, more experienced people and there should be less waste. As a UBS study has noted, “The total cost of production of a professionally cooked and delivered meal could approach the cost of home-cooked food, or beat it when time is factored in."

A key cost problem was delivery, but CloudKitchens are being built close to where people live but not necessarily where they would go out to eat, and the electric bike revolution is changing the cost and speed of delivery.

hello robot

© Starship Industries

And don't forget, the robots are coming. They could help solve the dish problem. Just take out your dinner while the robot patiently waits for you to finish, then put your dishes back in the robot and it takes them back to the CloudDishwasher.

Every time I write about this, readers scoff. But in my last post I wrote: "For most people, the kitchen is a reheating station and a waste management station for all the take-out containers. Occasionally it becomes an entertainment station for the cooking as hobby types."

kitchen closed

© Smart House

I can't bet $150 million on it like Travis Kalanick, but I will bet that, in not more than a decade, apartments won't even have kitchens, just a closet that hides the small appliances, much like the Smart House that TreeHugger founder Graham Hill worked on. Houses might have enclosed messy kitchens that are really just walk-in closets, and a few rich hobbyists will have showpiece kitchens. Travis Kalanick will make a few more billion dollars building kitchens that provide us with all our dinners.

And it will all probably use less energy, take less space, create less waste and create more jobs.