- David Chang’s Fuku was a high-profile brand that sold food through ghost kitchen startup Reef.
- Fuku disconnected the startup following reports of food safety issues inside trailers operated by Reef.
- The fried chicken chain now plans to grow nationally by working with reef rival Kitchen United.
David Chang’s popular fried chicken restaurant Fuku has dropped its partnership with ghost kitchen operator Reef Technology and is now working with the startup’s competitor, Kitchen United.
On Wednesday, Southern California-based Kitchen United announced a new partnership to expand the Chang Fuku brand to the entire country. Fuku’s first ghost kitchen with Kitchen United opened on December 15 in Santa Monica, California.
Michael Montagano, CEO of Kitchen United, said the company is “honored to be chosen by Fuku and looks forward to sharing it with our other Fuku fans across the country.”
Last week, Insider reported exclusively that Fuku had terminated its partnership with Reef.
Fukus exit comes amid reports of operational chaos at Reef, a fast-growing ghost kitchen startup backed by SoftBank.
The company has raised $ 1.5 billion in venture capital and entered into partnerships with national chains such as Wendy’s, Burger King and TGI Fridays.
Insider has previously reported violations of Reef’s health department, poor working conditions and customer complaints about raw and poorly prepared food.
Several raids by health inspectors in New York City, Houston, Detroit, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Austin, Texas, have led to Reef temporarily shutting down food trailers down in those cities.
Last week, Insider obtained leaked emails and photos showing a pattern of customer complaints about raw and undercooked food coming out of Reef’s mobile kitchens across the United States. A majority of the complaints reviewed by Insider were categorized as “undercooked food” from brands like Fuku.
That same week, Fuku said it no longer worked with Reef.
Alex Munoz-Suarez, CEO of Fuku, said in a statement that Kitchen United shares Fuku’s “passion for executing a fast-to-market strategy while maintaining incredibly high standards for brand and kitchen operations.”
Kitchen United is a pioneer in ghost kitchens that includes Reef and Travis Kalanick’s CloudKitchens. However, startups have different models.
Reef cooks for brands under licensing agreements, while Kitchen United leases kitchens to chains that want to expand their delivery footprint. CloudKitchens has a model similar to Kitchen United. Reef trailers are mainly located in parking lots, while Kitchen United’s ghost kitchens are accessible to consumers and look like food halls. CloudKitchens has also experimented with the madhal model.
Kitchen United’s first kitchen facility opened in 2018 in a retail area in Pasadena. Since then, Kitchen United has grown to nine locations throughout the United States, including Scottsdale, Arizona; to in Chicago; Austin, Texas; San Jose, California and New York City. This year, the company expanded its facilities in New York after acquiring New York-based ghost kitchen operator Zuul.
Fuku started as a secret fried chicken sandwich available at Chang’s famous Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City. He opened the first Fuku in 2015 in the East Village. Fuku will expand to new and existing Kitchen United locations across the country, including Texas and New York City, where Fuku already operates brick-and-mortar restaurants, both companies said Wednesday.