Ghosted by Ghost Kitchens

In the summer of 2021, REEF Technology expanded its network of mobile ghost kitchens across Portland, adding one cluster in Montavilla along SE 82nd Avenue. The Miami-based company bet big on delivery-only food service, a decision that seemed prophetic during the pandemic. However, that early success did not last and was particularly unsustainable in Portland. Now all locations are closed, with most former sites cleared of the brand’s equipment. Only one ghost kitchen cart remains at 1133 SE 82nd Avenue. It is locked up, and the website that once solicited new clients is offline.

REEF site at 1133 SE 82nd Avenue in 2021

As reported by Sophie Peel in the Willamette Week, REEF Technology recently ceased most, if not all, operations in Portland. Several years ago, the company’s business model was seen as the future of food service thanks to the popularity of app-based delivery services like Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub, and Postmates. The company leveraged a nationwide network of parking lots into delivery service hubs that offered low rent and easy access. Each food cart ghost kitchen could prepare food under various brands, cutting labor costs and flooding delivery apps with an onslaught of culinary options. The December 26th cover story in the Willamette Week detailed the troubled Portland rollout by REEF Technology. That article noted that many large brands had recently severed ties with the ghost kitchen prover, including Jack in the Box, Burger King, and Popeyes. 

Ghost kitchens were not an invention of REEF Technology, nor are they likely to disappear entirely from the landscape of American dining due to this recent setback. A detailed analysis of this model will one day explain the rapid rise and fall of REEF Technology’s Neighborhood Kitchens brand. However, for now, most Portlanders selecting food for delivery will find they come from a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

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