Akash Kapoor opened Curry Up Now as a food truck in 2009 and expanded to include five trucks, 18 shop windows and three bars by 2020. He thought 2020 would be the company’s “coming out” year, with new locations in Hoboken, Sacramento and Salt Lake City in February 2020.
Then came the coronavirus.
“Usually restaurants need a lot of tailwind and we were faced with headwinds immediately,” he said.
But a new partnership that has brought its food to “digital grocery halls” in the Bay Area – including two new locations in South Bay – has brought some relief to Kapoor. Like other ghost kitchens, the concept of Local Kitchens offers online orders, but also digital kiosks on site, with which hungry customers can combine dishes from eight to ten restaurants in a single building. There is no seating in the buildings and all groceries are packaged to take away.
The newest outpost is in Cupertino at Stevens Creek Boulevard 21666, but the company recently opened a location in San Jose on Rogers Ave. Opened in 1721. The local cuisine also has a building in Lafayette at 3455 Mt. Diablo Blvd.
The offerings in the digital food halls come from restaurants across the region and form what the founders of the startup have described as “the best of the Bay Area food scene”.
“We love dining rooms. The best part is the variety of dining options,” Jon Goldsmith, company CEO, told San Jose Inside. “We thought about what it would be like in a digital world if you didn’t have to take the entire footprint. Maybe we can make this more efficient and in turn make this accessible to a lot more people.
So far, Local Kitchens has worked with nine restaurants: Curry Up Now (Indian street food), Glaze (teriyaki grill), Humphry Slocombe (ice cream), The Little Chihuahua (sustainable Mexican), MIXT (gourmet salads), Proposition Chicken (chicken sandwiches , Salads and starters), cheeky Asian (Korean, Latin American and Californian mashups), Señor Sisig (Filipino street food) and Wise Sons (delicacies).
DoorDash alums Goldsmith and Andrew Munday founded the company together with longtime software engineer Jordan Bramble to “bring the food hall model into the digital age”, but at the beginning of the pandemic found their stand when the food in Indoor area quickly came to a standstill.
“I think we’ve heard across the board that everyone was looking for an alternative to bricks and mortar – this was before the pandemic, but especially during it,” Goldsmith, the company’s CEO, told San Jose Inside. “We felt in a really great position to provide additional revenue streams and a new growth plan for restaurants that didn’t need to expand their businesses.”
According to Kapoor, Curry Up Now already had digital business strategies, but partnering with Local Kitchens has been a blessing as the restaurant’s reach has grown. He doesn’t think there will be any food quality problems.
And, added Kapoor, the connection brings a long-standing friendship with Goldsmith into a new age.
“I’m very comfortable with Jon, he used to deliver for Curry Up Now when DoorDash started,” he said. “This is a great team, most of whom are ex-DoorDash folks who are familiar with Curry Up Now and know that we are leaders in Indian cuisine.”
The three locations of the local kitchens are all relatively new, but Goldsmith is already thinking about growing.
“Our goal is to have a presence in every part of the Bay Area and then throughout the state, if not all of the country,” he said. “Every city has its own choices and stories to tell – if we can combine technology with good food, that’s the experience we want to have.”