Kitchen United Is Bringing UK-Based Camile Thai To The U.S. As It Looks To Triple Its Footprint This Year

Kitchen United today announced it is adding UK-based Camile Thai to its growing portfolio of restaurant brands. With an exclusive licensing deal, Camile Thai will make its U.S. debut in Kitchen United Mix’s newly-opened Chicago The Loop ghost kitchen location.

Typically, this news wouldn’t generate major headlines. After all, Kitchen United’s list of restaurant partners includes heavyweights such as Wendy’s, White Castle, Dog Haus and Grimaldi’s Pizza. Camile Thai has 40 locations throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom.

But the concept is intriguing for several reasons, including as a tech-savvy early adopter of a hot food at-home delivery model that hones in on healthy offerings. The concept may also sound familiar as the first of its kind to facilitate hot food drone delivery in Europe in partnership with Irish drone-delivery startup Manna.

No plans for drone delivery are currently in the works with this U.S. entry, according to Atul Sood, chief business officer of Kitchen United. However, the Thai concept could position Kitchen United favorably for the near future, as drone delivery in the U.S. is not a question of if, but when. Amazon Prime’s drone delivery fleet recently received FAA approval, for example, and a handful of drone companies are piloting deliveries stateside.

That said, the appeal of Camile Thai extends well beyond its European drone delivery experience. The concept is forward-thinking all around, with automated woks in the kitchen, compostable delivery packaging and a robust digital marketing presence. That digital savviness is a big reason Sood is optimistic the concept will translate well in the domestic market despite some international concepts–like Leon and Le Pain Quotidien–struggling to do so.

“The ability for an international brand to come into the states is enhanced if they have a great digital marketing capability. When you’re fighting for real estate on delivery apps and consumer mind share, being able to hyper-locally target your market is super important. Camile Thai has built up those chops,” Sood said during a recent interview. “Brands that have tried and struggled haven’t been as successful with that digital marketing piece.”

Camile Thai also leans heavily into, what Sood calls, an “underrepresented Thai cuisine,” as well as vegan, dairy-and-gluten-free and omnivore diets with certified nutritional information and a focus on sustainability. These trends are especially top of mind now as the pandemic lingers and consumers are more health conscious.  

“An important component of this brand is it meets a broad range of dietary requirements from consumers, from plant-based and vegan all the way to healthy proteins and different spice levels,” Sood said. “The food also travels very well, which is an important part of this initiative.”

That said, Camile Thai’s food will not just be available via delivery. The Loop location also includes pickup and dine-in ordering. In fact, nearly 50% of Kitchen United orders come from pickup or walk-in customers and several locations will feature ordering kiosks and seating moving forward.

“We have been conscious of having an omnichannel presence from the get go. One strategy we’re executing now is combining access to delivery and takeout with some aspects of dine-in, including the [Chicago] Loop location. We don’t have table service, but we have ordering kiosks and some seating,” Sood said. “That ability to cater to that lunchtime traffic is an important function for us to have.”

The ghost kitchen company currently has six locations with plans to hit 20 by the end of the year in markets like Manhattan, Los Angeles and Texas. Camile Thai will grow along with it, opening soon in Chicago River North and then into Austin, Pasadena and Los Angeles.

“I’m really excited about our growth. It reinforces this new way for restaurants to expand in a capital-light and labor-light way,” Sood said. “Now, consumers are trained to order off-premise and they also understand they can get high quality food from emerging brands they haven’t tried or heard of before. I really believe the next great brands, like Camile Thai, are being created and are growing right now and will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. ”

Read The Full Story