Kitchen Hub is proudly and rightfully expanding across Toronto. Upgrading the ghost kitchen concept by putting the Chefs in charge and customers first, Kitchen Hub celebrates this industry disruption. “We are disrupting the industry by helping restaurants build a profitable take-out model and changing the way people eat by focusing on a great food experience via take-out that has been previously antiquated with dine-in only,” offers co-founder and CEO Adam Armeland.
Launching in 2018, we resisted asking Adam if he knows the Lotto Max numbers for this week. Clearly, a crystal ball must be in play somewhere. With their latest Dufferin and Castlefield location coming soon, we had some burning questions about this meal delivery service…
Meet Kitchen Hub
Libby Roach- Can you please tell us how you came up with the concept for Kitchen Hub?
Adam Armeland- While on parental leave, picking up food for my family was my way of ‘cooking’
while looking after my daughter. After sticking to the same routine for a while, I noticed that most of the other people picking up takeout orders were predominantly parents and delivery drivers. It was a steady flow of people on the go. It was in those seats, waiting for my order that I had my “aha” moment.
Toronto is well known for its incredible selection of food and at the time, the concept of ghost kitchens was on the rise. DoorDash was just coming to Canada and UberEats had set down their footing. What was missing was being able to order your favourite dishes from different restaurants all in one order. Let’s say you’re a vegetarian, but your kids want pizza and your partner’s craving barbeque. No one has to compromise, and everyone’s happy by being able to order across an amazing array of cuisines in one order from top restaurant brands. Not to mention our dessert partners – Le Dolci exclusive, Cheesecake Factory Bakery, Righteous Gelato…
LR- Do you have a background in the culinary world?
AA- Where culinary meets culture has always fascinated me and has dictated travel destinations. My co-founder and COO, Oren comes from a restaurant family specializing in take-out/delivery – growing up learning all aspects of the business. He was also part of the early days of DoorDash Canada and really applied restaurant operational functionality to the new app. Mat, the final co-founder and CFO, is an expert with startups. My expertise in commercial real estate rounds out our experience.
GHOST KITCHENS AMPLIFY COMMUNITY NEEDS
LR- You’ve expanded quickly during very challenging times – was it a pivot in response to the growing popularity of ghost kitchens or was it your plan from the get-go?
AA- It was our plan to expand from the get-go, pre-covid. We incorporated mid-2018, opening and becoming operational in early 2020. Delivery & take-out have been steadily growing over the past 6-7 years through 3rd party apps- it’s taught people to cook with their phones. The delivery/take-out channel was often an afterthought to the dine-in experience for restaurants, rarely prioritized and often not profitable.
Lockdown put a brighter spotlight on this problem, only operating take-out/delivery as dine-in was not an option. It was also proof point that delivery is here to stay. It doesn’t have to be worse because it’s delivery – we’re ushering in the next generation of delivery. We are defining DELIGHT in DELIVERY.
The key difference between what Kitchen Hub offers and the existing standard of ‘ghost kitchens‘ is that our partners have their own kitchen on-premise, which is staffed by their team. Kitchen Hub takes care of the front of house and operations so that the restaurants just focus on what they love – to cook! If you order Chef Nuit’s Pad Thai, it’s made in a Pai kitchen with Pai chefs. Our model allows the restaurant partners to pay 100% attention to delivery/take-out orders (as opposed to being split with dine-in), resulting in an extremely high-quality product.
PARTNERING WITH THE RIGHT PARTNERS
LR- What is the importance of selecting a community for a Kitchen Hub location? How do you vet your restaurant partners and access the needs of each neighbourhood?
AA- We like to take a HOLISTIC approach. Leveraging – data, expertise, partners, advisor and community. Part data-driven/data-informed to site selection. We look for underserved areas using every piece of data we can get our hands on. What’s commonly available (census, population segmentation) or a step deeper, working with app partners to help with site selections. Part real life/real experts.
We have established an open channel of communication with current partners for input, feedback and anecdotal insights on their thought on what works and what doesn’t. We engage industry experts given the experience each of our founders brought to the table. They consult with a roster of very well-established veterans across a range of relevant industries.
Finally, we analyze community needs by assessing each neighbourhood to determine the white space that exists – bringing in highly sought brand/cuisine offerings that currently don’t exist there. We consider all of these inputs and make the best-calculated decision – holistically.
MORE HUB, LESS (GHOST) KITCHEN
LR- Tell us about the new Dufferin and Castlefield location.
AA- Castlefield is our crown jewel and the model for all future locations. It includes 13 kitchens covering a wide selection of the major cuisine, building a considerable food amenity to the area. If you’re familiar with this neighbourhood, it’s got a mix of industries (interior design, auto garages, wholesale goods), but generally speaking, great food options are lacking. This makes us really excited to introduce a selection of Toronto’s top restaurants into the neighbourhood.
LR- Building out a space when supply chain issues are prevalent must have been a challenge.
AA- Like everyone else, we are also not immune to supply chain issues due to the pandemic. We’ve learned to be incredibly nimble and to quickly pivot in order to get ahead of any setbacks. It also helps that we have an amazing team that works lock-step with the builders ensuring details aren’t overlooked and delays are minimized.
LR- What are some of the food trends you’re seeing now?
AA- A couple of trends we’re really excited about are:
Authenticity – prioritizing sourcing the best products and ingredients to create authentic dishes.
Takeout Packaging – optimized for food quality and beautiful food presentation. We strive to be environmentally friendly, minimizing food waste at the facilities.
But how’s the food?
Ordering is easy, and food is accessible. As a mom with two daughters eating with opposing palates, Kitchen Hub solves the ‘what to order’. With too many options and steep delivery fees, KH takes the sting out of multiple orders. It also helps bland-based eaters to be tempted by more inspired offerings.
Food, even from an extended distance was piping hot. The mega-sized Chopped Salad from Victory Foods was an absolute instant favourite. With crispy polenta chunks and braised Brussels sprouts it was filling and nutritious. A Buffalo Fried Chicken Sandwich was sensational, crispy and delicious, as was the Kanga Meat Pie.
We dubbed the adorable Le Dolci cake as ‘Thursday Cake’ and celebrated the upcoming weekend for no reason!! Spontaneous and fun, Kitchen Hub is absolutely a repeat meal.
Follow @KitchenHub to stay up to date on the official opening and menu additions and check out their website to place an order.
While we received free products for consideration, this is a 100% honest and fair profile. We love this concept! TY to the chefs at Kitchen Hub for supplying the food items.
All photos by Libby Roach.