Food delivery gets spooky

February 3, 2020

The Hustle

It’s Super Sick Day. The Workforce Institute at Kronos estimates that 17.5m Americans will miss work today, the day after the Super Bowl. It’s expected to be the biggest day of Super Bowl-related hooky since 2005. Elsewhere:

  • Ghost kitchens grow where malls did fail
  • New ad tech means you’ve got mail
  • TikTok docs hope they can scale

The Hustle Daily Email

Ghost kitchens are a growing front in the food-delivery wars

The next delivery burger you order might be served up by a ghost — a ghost kitchen, that is.

Real-estate developers are buying space in empty malls and renting trailers in parking lots. They’re transforming them into mobile kitchens to get a taste of the booming delivery biz.

In some cases, the kitchens prepare food from brick-and-mortar establishments. In others, the “restaurants” (like the blandly named Burger Bytes) exist only online.

It’s like a 2-trend sandwich

The death of the American mall and the rise of the food-delivery app have created some mouth-watering opportunities:

  • Delivery accounts for 9% of the $282B fast-food sector in the US.
  • Those sales are growing faster than drive-through and dine-in.

Some of the most prominent players in ghost kitchens include CloudKitchens (from former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick), Miami’s Reef Technology, and Pasadena-based Kitchen United.

The companies say they can build filet-grade kitchen space at ground-chuck prices. CloudKitchens says a 230-square-foot site can be built in two weeks for $30k, while a 3.5k-square-foot restaurant can cost $1m to outfit.

But some restaurants don’t like what’s on the menu

Last week, we reported on a ghostly controversy in San Francisco, where a chef exposed fake delivery pages that had been generated for her non-delivering restaurant.

This week, the New York City Council is scheduled to hold a hearing on ghost kitchens and their impact on small businesses.

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snail image

Ad-targeting tech goes old school — with snail mail

It’s no secret that companies amass and sell your personal data. But did you know that the data can be used to target you in the physical world, via snail mail?

Maybe you’ve received some of it already: curated mailers peddling pet products, meal-kit offers, or a cornucopia of coupons from vaguely hipster brands.

This is where the pile of junk (er, behaviorally targeted) mail comes from — and here’s what you can do about it.

Some brands are vying for your away-from-the-screen time

PebblePost is a “digital-to-direct mail marketing platform” that tracks visits to brand websites. Here’s how it works.

  • It uses “data science and machine learning” to identify visitors who are most likely to actually buy something.
  • It works with other companies to figure out your address.
  • It mails an offer to your doorstep within 12 to 24 hours.

Yikes, stalker alert! A similar firm, Share Local Media, does mailings for millennial-forward brands like Casper and Lyft.

Why are they targeting you old-school style? The idea is: If the offer is one of the few things in your IRL mailbox, you might actually look at it.

Umm, is this even legal?

Yep, sure is. Here are a few ways to mitigate the onslaught:

  • Register with the Direct Marketing Association. It costs $2 and opts you out of some brands’ mailing (and email) lists for 10 years.
  • Register with RetailMeNot every 5 years and whenever you move.
  • If you’re in California, you can ask companies to delete your personal information.
  • Or you can take the most direct route. Opt out of PebblePost and Share Local Media mailings altogether.
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A peek behind the curtain of The Hustle’s Ad Department

We thought we’d give you a lil’ peek at a day in the life of our ad team here at Hustle HQ.


BOB: Hey, forgot to mention — I’m in Indiana today. Can you drop some feedback on the ad drafts? Will Uber Eats you coffee and a day-old donut in exchange.

MEG: Sure thing. Send it to my house, I’m WFH today. French Cruller.

MEG: Also… Indiana?

BOB: It’s my nephew’s half-birthday.

MEG: 🔜 🍩 + ☕

Later that day…

BOB: Can you look at the edits I made to your edits?

MEG: This is turning into Edit-ception. Let’s look together.

Meg shares the doc directly in Teams.   

Teams helps us get (and stay) on the same page with group chat, built-in audio, and video calling. But don’t take my word for it… see for yourself. It’s free, after all.

Yes, free. As in $0. Download the free version of Microsoft Teams today and work better.

Teams time →

tik tok image

Just what every tween wanted: sex ed invades TikTok

America’s doctors are using a tried-and-true tactic to teach America’s tweens about sex: Meet them where they are.

Here in 2020, that means one thing. Fire up the TikTok machine.

The #tiktokdoc will see you now

The New York Times ran down all the ways M.D.’s are turning TikTok into a less-than-a-minute clinic:

It sounds wholesome. But this is the internet, and the internet finds a way to ruin everything.

Just ask the doc who Tok’d about vaccines

Dr. Nicole Baldwin, a pediatrician in Cincinnati, posted a viral clip pointing out all the diseases that can be prevented with vaccines — which don’t cause autism. She was bombarded with threats.

Vaccine talk isn’t the only thing to spark controversy.

Angry Twitter users spawned a competing hashtag (er, #tiktokdocsGoneWild) to criticize docs who tell young patients that they can see them without their parents — for things like birth control and STD screening.

One time, the advice was just plain bad

Last month, a TikTok user calling herself Nurse Holly deleted a video in the face of a giant backlash. Her clip said waiting to have sex until you’re married was the best way to prevent STDs.

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Small business of the week: Reputation management for the masses

Ten years ago, Pete Kistler faced a dreaded reality: A criminal with the same name was outranking him in Google search results. To remedy the situation, he’d have to pay a reputation-management company. That meant a $25k bill — at least.

Kistler, Patrick Ambron, and Evan Watson wanted to make those services more accessible — because a negative search result can affect anyone. So they created Brand Yourself, the “TurboTax for reputation management.”

Since its founding, Brand Yourself has grown to more than 1m customers, and the company is profitable. Most of its growth has come organically, and the company uses SEO to inform product innovation.

The company’s work has expanded to cover dark-web scans and revenge-porn incidents.

On the horizon: Tools to help you bulk-delete accounts you don’t need (like that time you gave the Charlotte airport all your information for 30 minutes of free WiFi), and an API for businesses that want to license their technology.

  • Founders: Patrick Ambron, Pete Kistler, Evan Watson
  • Employees: 75
  • Years in business: 10
  • Cost to launch: $1.5-$3k
  • Funding methods: Personal savings, venture capital
  • 1st-year revenue: $276k
  • Current annual revenue: $10m+

Want your story featured? Fill out our Small Business survey. See financials of 700+ companies by subscribing to Trends.


📻 The troubled radio giant iHeartMedia bet big on AI. Hundreds of humans were laid off.

🏈 Pro athletes are getting more involved in venture capital.

🚨Inside a culture of misogyny at Victoria’s Secret.

🃏A brand that specializes in internet stunts has raised more than $11m in outside investment since 2019.

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