- Josiah Kamau/BuzzFoto via Getty Images
- Uber’s ousted founder, Travis Kalanick, quietly raised $400 million from Saudi Arabia for his food-delivery startup in January, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
- It’s the first known investment by the kingdom since the murder of the American journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
- Delivery-only restaurants are a hot topic right now not only with startups but with Kalanick’s former employer.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Travis Kalanick, the ousted founder of Uber, is quickly scaling up his next act.
The Wall Street Journal’s Rory Jones and Rolfe Winkler reported on Thursday that the billionaire quietly raised $400 million from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund in January in a deal that could value CloudKitchens, his delivery-only restaurant company, at $5 billion.
Saudi Arabia was one of Uber’s biggest backers before Kalanick was booted from its C-suite amid a scandal-ridden 2017. It’s also one of the kingdom’s first major investments since the murder of the American journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, which has caused some investors – but not all – to reconsider their ties to it.
Kalanick and the company did not respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment.
CloudKitchens says on its website that it supports other restaurants in their delivery efforts by providing a full kitchen optimized for takeout orders, without front-of-house service. Partners advertised online include The Halal Guys – a New York street-food favorite – Fat Sal’s Deli, and more. It also has its own delivery restaurants.
“Everything about the restaurant experience is designed for walk-ins and reservations,” the company says. “And while delivery is an increasing percentage of the business, many operators are forced to trade-off the dine-in experience with a booming delivery business.”
But it’s far from the only company looking to capitalize on the trend.
Uber, where Kalanick is still a director, is rapidly scaling up its Eats business, with plans to roll out more virtual restaurants soon. SoftBank, now one of the world’s most prolific tech investors through its Vision Fund, is also behind Reef Technology – formerly known as ParkJockey – which aims to turn parking lots into kitchens, delivery hubs, and more.
“The amount of revenue that restaurants have access to is limited to the number of tables they have in their restaurant as well as how quickly they can provide meals to customers and how often those tables turn over,” Ana Mahony, the head of Uber Eats for US cities, told Business Insider earlier this year.
Delivery enables restaurants “to, within the same fixed-cost structure, not just make money off of in-store sales, but also have a second avenue to sell their meals,” Mahony said.
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