There was something about this particular cluster of restaurant brands that was harder to pin down. For one, they didn't actually seem to be brands -- at least in the usual sense. None of them seemed to have a website, and I couldn't find any person or organization that seemed responsible for creating them, or any mentions in the press. [...]
In addition to running its ghost kitchen business, CloudKitchens had launched an entire operation dedicating to building out "menus and branding" for its own virtual restaurant concepts -- "off-the-shelf" restaurants that food entrepreneurs could license "from their own kitchens." [...]
"Ultimately, it gives people the paradox of choice," said Matt Newberg. He says, "it also makes it incredibly more competitive"; the more brands there are to choose from, the less likely the consumer is to click on any individual storefront. As The New York Times has pointed out, it's also easy to imagine a future where virtual brand companies with money to spend on prime placement in delivery app search results push independent restaurants lower and lower down the list. [...]
His greatest concern about Future Foods is one that restaurateurs may not even be aware of. "They're giving restaurants tablets which would track all of their orders," he said. "So any pizzeria that's on [F*cking Good Pizza] is unwittingly sharing all this data with Otter."
As he sees it, when you partner with Future Foods, you're signing up to participate in what is essentially a "massive experiment on the restaurant landscape." In addition to helping the company to market-test the concepts in their portfolio, local restaurants using Otter to consolidate their orders in one place are granting the company back-door access to valuable information on consumer preferences in your town -- information that CloudKitchens could leverage down the road to compete with local restaurants from its own kitchens.
"Their whole game is to maximize the dollar per square foot on an industrial property for delivery, and then get some of the transaction," he said. "And that requires selecting restaurants that are going to perform well on delivery -- so if they know that your local pizzeria did well selling this brand, they'll likely try to find someone to replicate that in their own space." He likens Future Foods' brands to a "Trojan horse virus": "It's their way of getting into a space, without physically having to go and count how many orders are going out the front door."
A quest to find the origin of a pizza place led me down a rabbit hole of clickbait restaurants -- with Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick's new company at the end.