Uber Tests New Service That Rents Commercial-Grade Kitchens to Uber Eats Vendors: Report

Want to sell your famous chicken pot pie but don't have a proper kitchen? Uber's got a solution.

Besides giving people rides, Uber uses its app to deliver food through its Uber Eats service; now, the ride-hailing company is taking things a step further. The company is testing a service that rents out fully equipped, commercial-grade kitchens to restaurants selling food through delivery apps like Uber Eats, according to Bloomberg.

Last year, Uber’s food delivery team reportedly began leasing a space in Paris, information that Bloomberg attributes to an anonymous person familiar with the matter. Uber has apparently been stocking the space with ovens, refrigerators, stoves, and other kitchen equipment. The company has been renting them out to restaurants or individuals that cater exclusively to delivery customers, according to Bloomberg, but Uber has not publicly disclosed the program.

The program is reportedly still in its infancy, but if Uber undertook a widespread launch it would compete directly with a business owned ex-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. The former executive, who was ousted after a series of scandals, is cultivating a kitchen-rental startup called CloudKitchens and has even been hiring former Uber employees. Uber supposedly issued a warning to Kalanick, who still sits on the ride-hailing company’s board, last year telling him not to recruit Uber staff.

Speaking to Bloomberg, an Uber spokesperson would not discuss any plans for a kitchen-rental service and would not acknowledge any conflict with Kalanick.

“The more restaurants there are, the more selection Uber Eats customers can enjoy, and we believe that the growth of CloudKitchens and others like it will be great for both the food industry and for consumers,” the representative explained.

Kalanick led Uber for seven years during a time when the company experienced explosive growth and cemented ride-hailing as a mainstream transportation option. However, a series of scandals including a trade-secrets lawsuit with Waymo over autonomous-driving tech, accusations that sexual harassment was tolerated by Uber management, and a heated confrontation between Kalanick and an Uber driver led to his dismissal.

It’s unclear how Uber will deal with the potential competition from Kalanick’s CloudKitchens startup. Uber could fight Kalanick with its own service, but it’s also possible that the two businesses could coexist. Japan’s SoftBank, a major Uber investor, also invests in food-delivery rival DoorDash and Didi Chuxing, the ride-hailing company that bought Uber’s Chinese operations in 2016 and has tried to make inroads into other Uber markets.

Also unclear is Kalanick’s future involvement with Uber. The ride-hailing company will undertake an initial public offering (IPO) later this year that could shake up its board. When it goes public, Uber will be controlled by common shareholders who will have the power to reshape its board. While the company remains private, Kalanick and other board members keep their seats through contractual agreements. But those agreements will dissolve when the company goes public.