The idea for the unique Toronto-based Kitchen Hub food hall concept, basically a ghost kitchen housing multiple foodservice partners, was born in Adam Armeland’s mind one day while on paternity leave and recognizing the number of people buying food to go at a certain establishment.
Today, Kitchen Hub has plans to roll out eventually across the country with more than 50 locations.
While on parental leave, Armeland would always go to a place called Pazza Pazza on Eglington to pick up food for the family. It was his way of ‘cooking’ for his family when he was busy taking care of his daughter.
“What I kept on noticing time and time again, and it was like an anvil hitting me over the head a bunch of times and eventually I perked up and noticed it, was a bunch of parents and drivers constantly flowing through. It was people picking up, people driving, people picking up, people driving. A couple of people sitting in the seats. You couldn’t help but notice the steady flow of traffic that was happening,” said Armeland.
“That was the aha moment. I realized that people were busy and they were looking for quality food provided conveniently. Toronto’s known for incredible food and we’ve been written up globally . . . and at the time off-premise was on the rise. DoorDash was just coming to Canada. Uber Eats had set down their footing. And you saw all that stuff increasing.”
The thought came to Armeland. Can you drive down real estate costs by using more than one brand in a location? Can you sell only through digital channels? And can you drive down the cost of operations by co-locating the foodservice brands?
The first Kitchen Hub began January 2020 with a location in Etobicoke on The Queensway. A second location then opened up in Toronto’s east end at Parliament and Shuter Streets and now a third is opening up at Castlefield Avenue and Dufferin Street with 13 kitchens on one site in 10,000 square feet of space. The third location will be ready for the end of October/early November.
“At the end of the day what we’re trying to do is bring amazing food and restaurants to new neighbourhoods and we do that by providing them with the infrastructure and services for them to be successful in the on-demand food economy,” said Armeland.
“So we have multiple restaurants in one facility and we focus on the restaurants and their success. We equate internally their success to our success. The restaurants trust us and they’re able to grow with us because they’ve been moving from site to site with us. We have the same brands showing up a bunch of times, time and time again.”
Beyond the infrastructure provided, Kitchen Hub also provides restaurants with other services which makes it easier to operate such as front of house, facility management.
“What that allows a restaurant to do is focus on what they do best, which is cook,” said Armeland. “So we’re getting rid of all that up front headache and all the ongoing headaches and really letting them focus down on chefs, food and execution.”
The concept also creates new channels for restaurants to sell through which gives them access to new revenues they wouldn’t be able to get on their own. All restaurants can be accessed through one delivery channel.
Armeland said some of the company’s competitors in the U.S. go up to 40 different brands from one location.
“That’s not our strategy. What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to curate a food hall for an area and become the amenity to an area and when they think about food they come to us. We think the best way to do that is to make sure we’re bringing in quality brands for that area to cater to the tastes of that area,” he added.
“We don’t want to have overlapping cuisines necessarily because we want to have the best of each category available to a given area. Our goal is 10 to 20 probably per location and if you get beyond that then you’re really starting to get into overlapping categories and really not relying on everybody coming together and promoting themselves up.
“The goal is to show up in an MLS listing and be seen by the consumer as an amenity to the area.”
Armeland said takeout and delivery of food has grown exponentially recently across Canada.
“The opportunities are really available everywhere where the delivery apps are which is really every city in Canada. For us, we look at it as an opportunity to grow in Toronto because Toronto is the biggest market for food in Canada and if we can conquer that market that’s where we’re focused at first,” he said.
“And then we’re looking to expand in all the other markets that food delivery and takeout is prevalent. The road map of 50 (locations) brings us right across Canada and allows us to provide that food to really every densely populated neighbourhood in Canada.”