More Than 20 ‘Ghost Kitchens’ Are Operating Out Of This Dump In South Of Market
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No one would ever order food from a place as dirty and depressing as this complete dump in SoMa, but no one knows they’re ordering food from this dirty and depressing complete dump in SoMa. In a mildly converted warehouse at 60 Morris Street, a nondescript little alley spot tucked away about a block from the EndUp, dozens of restaurants designed to look like real restaurants on industry-killing meal delivery apps are quietly operating as “ghost kitchens” under a whole bunch of generic and plausible-sounding restaurant names. A Google search on “60 Morris Street delivery” produces more than 20 results for differently named and legitimate-sounding restaurants. But we visited that warehouse spot, and people, this place does not look very sanitary and is clearly not operating within food service guidelines.
A reader sent us this photo of a ghost kitchen in the Mission, where six ‘delivery-only’ kitchens are operating out of one location. The New York Times described another ghost kitchen at the old Discolandia location on 24th Street, funded by Uber Eats, a venture that TechCrunch describes as “essentially WeWork for restaurant kitchens.” (so you know that’s gonna end well). Last week the Chronicle found a ghost kitchen operating several restaurants out of “a long white trailer occupying four parking spots” beneath a highway overpass. When you order food on GrubHub or Uber Eats, you may not realize that you are not ordering from a real established restaurant, but from a warehouse, and with a business name and listing that is more or less catfishing you with fake photos on their interior or offerings.
Sometimes these ghost kitchens completely steal an established restaurant’s identity to market themselves as the real thing. SFist recently discovered a fake version of Michelin-starred Kin Khao listed on both GrubHub and Seamless.
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We popped by one of San Francisco’s most prominent ghost kitchen facilities, and Jesus is this place dirty and depressing. Though Business Insider gave 60 Morris a glowing write-up, we found the place looks like a combination of 850 Bryant and the kind of SRO lobby where the check-in counter has bulletproof glass. It is operated by disgraced Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s new venture CloudKitchens, but their $400 million in VC funding from dirty Saudi Arabian money is not evident in the facility’s hand-written signs, bare bones interior, and general below-minimum-wage dystopian chic.
There is zero concept of “quality control” in this mass-distribution scheme, and everyone involved appears to have no food service background of any type. The lobby does not look like it would pass an SF Department of Health inspection. The delivery drivers do not grab orders directly, instead the food is placed in numbered locker units that are clearly not equipped with heating and cooling units to maintain proper temperatures. And app-based food delivery drivers are not required by their companies to have the California Food Handlers Ceritification to show even a minimal competence at cleanliness and safe food handling.
Despite this sign saying there was No Parking on the Morris Street, every single one of the drivers we observed in a 45-minute span did, in fact, park on Morris Street. This has to be awful for anyone who lives nearby.
On a weeknight between 9-9:45 p.m., we observed 4-5 cars parked on Morris Street at all times. The front counter “expediter” person at 80 Morris can clearly see this through the large front window, but CloudKitchens obviously does not give shit about operating in a constant state of illegality.
The sign above (and again, this is a company with $400 million in venture capital) has the scotch-tape-and-magic-marker instructions to 1) Sign In, 2) Watch, 3) Pick Up. Delivery driver are made to wait on folding chairs for the order to come up, at which point it is placed in their numbered locker and they can grab it.
The “kitchen” operates with no recognizable name, and the bizarre fork and knife logo above just happens to be unrecognizable, not speakable in the human language, and not Google-able. We will say the facility at least has a bathroom on hand for drivers’ relief.
You may not care whether your food comes from an actual restaurant with qualified staff, skilled customer service, and fair wages and representation. Maybe you think it’s great that messiah-complex founder types like Travis Kalanick are “disrupting” another industry that was doing fine before they came along, and changing the game with their fake restaurant profiles, below-minimum wage workforce, and demonstrated inability to never, ever make a profit. But people do at least deserve to know if their food is from a real restaurant or a ghost kitchen, because that phenomenon is making San Francisco’s legendary cuisine scene a ghost of its former self.