Skip to main content

Go read this report on how your next food delivery might be cooked up in a parking lot

Go read this report on how your next food delivery might be cooked up in a parking lot

/

From fireballs to $20,000 towing fees, this report has it all

Share this story

SKOREA-ASIA-ECONOMY-HEALTH-VIRUS-FOOD
Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

Mobile kitchens that cater solely to food delivery services, like Uber Eats and DoorDash, sound like a great idea in theory, as dedicated delivery kitchens can push out food faster without having to worry about passing meals along to servers. But a report from The Wall Street Journal details some of the mishaps associated with one trailer-bound ghost kitchen company, Reef, which involves third-degree burns and regulatory violations.

Just this April, the WSJ reports that one Reef kitchen in Houston, Texas experienced two fiery accidents in just four months. One involved a blast that erupted from the kitchen’s propane burners — and by a stroke of luck, the cook came out unscathed.

While the cook escaped harm — she happened to open a refrigerator at the same time that shielded her from the flames — it was the second such incident at the same Houston trailer in four months. The first one injured a different cook, as flames scorched her face and gave her third-degree burns on her hands that caused skin to peel off her fingers, rendering her unable to work.

This mayhem gets a little less unsurprising when you realize that Reef actually didn’t start out in the food business. According to the WSJ, Reef (formerly ParkJockey) originally sought to transform portions of parking lots into trailer-filled parks that contain different service areas. After receiving $1.2 billion in funding from SoftBank in 2018, it bought out two parking lot management companies, becoming “the largest parking-lot network in North America.”

And although Reef is apparently a parking lot tycoon, it still has issues securing a proper parking space to plant its trailers. The WSJ found that the company has to resort to renting parking lots for over 70 percent of its kitchens.

Reef found it wasn’t able to put trailers on many of its lots, as some had enclosed garages, where propane tanks and utility hookups aren’t allowed. Others were owned by landlords who didn’t want food trucks, former employees said.

In addition, some cities classify Reef’s trailers as food trucks, meaning the company often has to tow its trailers to commissaries to fill up on water — sometimes shelling out $20,000 for towing in a single day, as noted by the WSJ. To complicate things further, the trailers aren’t made for use on the road, potentially straining propane lines and leading to leaks. Reef has also been hit with various violations, including some for operating without a permit and not towing trailers to dedicated commissaries after use, leading to the suspension of over 25 trailers since this summer.

Wendy’s, Burger King, and Popeye’s have also reportedly sealed deals with Reef

Despite all of these glaring issues, the WSJ states that Reef’s food revenue reached $12 million in September, 600 percent higher than last year. Wendy’s, Burger King, and Popeye’s have also reportedly sealed deals with Reef, which means if you get your food delivered from some of these locations, you won’t even know it came from a trailer. According to the WSJ, Reef currently has around 350 mobile kitchens.

Reef does have some competition, however, in the form of former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s CloudKitchens. Kalanick’s floating kitchen company also seems to be experiencing operational difficulties but of a completely different breed. It reportedly suffers from the same sort of chaos that surrounded Uber under Kalanick’s lead, including high turnover rates and an “aggressive internal culture.”

Whether you’ve never heard of ghost kitchens or you walk by one every day, this WSJ report gives you an inside look at how the business operates.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 57 minutes ago Dimorphos didn’t even see it coming

T
Thomas Ricker57 minutes ago
Check out this delightful DART Easter egg.

Just Google for “NASA DART.” You’re welcome.


R
Twitter
Richard Lawler12:00 AM UTC
A direct strike at 14,000 mph.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) scored a hit on the asteroid Dimorphos, but as Mary Beth Griggs explains, the real science work is just beginning.

Now planetary scientists will wait to see how the impact changed the asteroid’s orbit, and to download pictures from DART’s LICIACube satellite which had a front-row seat to the crash.


M
The Verge
We’re about an hour away from a space crash.

At 7:14PM ET, a NASA spacecraft is going to smash into an asteroid! Coverage of the collision — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test — is now live.


Asian America learns how to hit back

The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate

Esther WangSep 26
E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.

Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.

During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
Missing classic Mario?

One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?


R
Youtube
Richard LawlerSep 26
Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.

The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 9 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 26
Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.


A
External Link
Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.


J
James VincentSep 26
Today, 39 years ago, the world didn’t end.

And it’s thanks to one man: Stanislav Petrov, a USSR military officer who, on September 26th, 1983, took the decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against the US. Petrov correctly guessed that satellite readings showing inbound nukes were faulty, and so likely saved the world from nuclear war. As journalist Tom Chivers put it on Twitter, “Happy Stanislav Petrov Day to those who celebrate!” Read more about Petrov’s life here.


Soviet Colonel who prevented 1983 nuclear response
Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images
J
The Verge
James VincentSep 26
Deepfakes were made for Disney.

You might have seen the news this weekend that the voice of James Earl Jones is being cloned using AI so his performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars can live on forever.

Reading the story, it struck me how perfect deepfakes are for Disney — a company that profits from original characters, fans' nostalgia, and an uncanny ability to twist copyright law to its liking. And now, with deepfakes, Disney’s most iconic performances will live on forever, ensuring the magic never dies.


E
External Link
Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.

“An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.


R
The Verge
Richard LawlerSep 26
Teen hacking suspect linked to GTA 6 leak and Uber security breach charged in London.

City of London police tweeted Saturday that the teenager arrested on suspicion of hacking has been charged with “two counts of breach of bail conditions and two counts of computer misuse.”

They haven’t confirmed any connection with the GTA 6 leak or Uber hack, but the details line up with those incidents, as well as a suspect arrested this spring for the Lapsus$ breaches.