- Kitchen United has named Atul Sood as CEO, weeks after former CEO Michael Montagano left to take the top job at Dog Haus, according to a LinkedIn post by Sood.
- Sood has served as chief business officer since co-founding Kitchen United six years ago, the company said in a press release. Sood told Restaurant Dive he would continue on in that role.
- Sood begins as CEO at a moment when the ghost kitchen segment is undergoing a period of realignment and many firms are shifting towards a more omnichannel business model.
Earlier this year, Sood and Montagano both said a mix of takeout, delivery and walk-up traffic could be key to ensuring the success of ghost kitchen concepts. The company’s partnership with Kroger, where it has eight of its to-go food halls open, has been a central part of meeting consumers where they are, physically. During Montagano’s tenure, the company also expanded its technology offerings, according to the press release.
“We’ve been at the forefront of exploring different models and markets for success,” Sood said. “We are highly focused on building our business for decades to come and continue to deepen our impact on the transformation of the restaurant industry.”
Montagano said Kitchen United has hit on a sustainable business model. Other ghost kitchen and virtual brand firms have laid workers off, lost major partnerships or even closed, since spring 2022, when the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates, which made borrowing more expensive. Most COVID-19 restrictions also ended during this time, making delivery less compelling compared to other ordering channels. Such troubles, Sood previously told Restaurant Dive, are expected in the early years of a new industry.
Kitchen United seems to have weathered the storm, in part because the company was preparing for an omnichannel future back in 2021.
Kitchen United raised $100 million last summer in an investment backed by both Kroger and Restaurant Brands International. The company pulled back on expansion through shopping malls due to the success of its Kroger partnership, which aligned with its existing omnichannel multi-brand food halls.
Prior to Kitchen United, Sood spent two years as McDonald’s global digital director of business development, where he worked on launching the company’s delivery partnerships, according to his LinkedIn profile. Sood started out in investment banking.
The combination of experience in finance, restaurant tech and QSRs helped Sood forge relationships with restaurants and partners, John Miller, an investor and Kitchen United board member said.