US-based technology start-up Reef, which is backed by Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Capital, has joined forces with Americana Group, the largest food and beverage operator in the Middle East, to open cloud kitchens in the region.
These will operate Reef, Americana and third-party brands throughout the Middle East and North Africa region, the companies said in a joint statement on Thursday.
“As Reef continues its international expansion, this highly strategic partnership is a milestone that will serve as a model for the ways our ecosystem can deliver rich market-backed content to new locations,” Ramez Shehadi, president of international and chief growth officer of Reef, said.
“We look forward to growing this relationship and replicating it across many priority markets in the near future.”
In November 2020, Mubadala Capital, a wholly owned asset management subsidiary of Mubadala Investment Company, led a $700 million funding round for Reef. Following that, Reef acquired a UAE-based cloud kitchen company iKcon Restaurant, marking its first major deal in the region.
The Miami-based company provides technology solutions to turn under-utilised urban spaces – such as car parks – into neighbourhood hubs. The redesigned spaces can be used for businesses such as cloud kitchens, retail units or even Covid-19 testing facilities. Reef employs 18,000 people and operates in about 8,000 locations.
The start-up was valued at $1 billion when SoftBank acquired a stake in 2018.
A cloud kitchen – also known as a dark or ghost kitchen – is a restaurant that only accepts delivery orders. The set-up consists of a shared kitchen that prepares food delivered to platforms such as Zomato, Deliveroo, Talabat and Uber Eats.
The size of the global cloud kitchen market stood at about $43.1 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 12 per cent to reach $71.4bn by 2027, according to Allied Market Research.
“FoodTech is an exciting space and offers vast opportunities to grow our customer base … as technology and ordering trends continue to evolve, we believe this collaboration will bring mutual synergies and benefit in the long run,” Amarpal Sandhu, chief executive of Americana Restaurants, said.
Founded in Kuwait in 1964, Americana introduced the concept of fast-food restaurants in the region in 1970.
The group owns exclusive franchise rights for the management and operation of more than 1,950 restaurants in 13 markets across the Mena and Commonwealth of Independent States region. It represents leading brands including KFC, Pizza Hut, Hardee’s, Krispy Kreme, Wimpy and TGI Fridays, among others.
The latest partnership is expected to bring convenient access to some of the most-loved brands to neighbourhoods across Mena, said Michael Beacham, president of Reef Kitchens.
“Americana is renowned for their outstanding operations and a deep commitment to quality. We look forward to an enduring partnership and helping to build the future of the industry together,” he said.