April 10, 2020

The strange case of a disappearing ‘internet food court’

The fledgling food service vanished almost as fast as it had appeared.

The ghost kitchen vanished almost as fast as it had appeared.

But the Financial Times spotted traces of the fledgling service before it ghosted us. And the FT unraveled a strange internet caper in the process.

Here’s how it all started

This week, a press release announced the arrival of the “Internet Food Court,” a venture from CloudKitchens, the culinary company started by the former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

The point of the IFC, according to the FT: To prepare food from 30 restaurant brands, and then deliver them on popular services like Grubhub and DoorDash. Sorta “like a mall food court, except less mall and more internet.” 

Its now-deleted Instagram profile boasted of “Thai. Indian. Chinese. Russian. Errrrthang” — cuisine for everyone, “except Karen.”

Care to comment, Mr. Kalanick?

After the FT reached out to CloudKitchens for more info, the IFC’s internet footprint disappeared. 

A rep for the holding company of CloudKitchens said the PR blitz “included numerous errors and misrepresentations,” and was “created and disseminated without the company’s knowledge.”

The strangest thing about this odd affair: An IFC-branded building does exist IRL. Its name is splashed on the windows of a building in LA’s Koreatown (the walk-up window is closed due to the coronavirus). 

The Medium publication HNGRY confirmed that the Los Angeles city government approved CloudKitchens’ application for a liquor license there in February.

Kalanick is disavowing the whole fiasco, but skeptics say he’s just passing the blame.

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