Speedy grocery company Gorillas was scooped up by Getir in a rescue deal in December — and some of its cofounders and executives are already onto new things.
Felix Chrobog, Gorillas’ former cofounder and COO, Marc Hansell, former general counsel, and Gerry Pidgeon, former VP of finance at the company, have raised €1.5m for their virtual restaurant franchise TastyUrban, which will create and license out food brands to restaurants.
The round was led by Earlybird VC and a handful of angels including Alexander Artopé, founder and CEO of fintech smava, and Ronny Shibley, former cofounder and CTO of Gorillas — continuing the trend of founders backing founders in Europe.
TastyUrban develops delivery-first food brands which are then licensed out to restaurants. Its first brand is birdie birdie, which specialises in fried chicken sandwiches.
Restaurants order the ingredients and packaging for the birdie birdie sandwich via TastyUrban’s platform, and then prepare the meal in their own kitchen. The order is then delivered to the customer via Wolt, UberEats or the restaurant’s own drivers.
For each order, the restaurant receives a 25-28% revenue share — depending on whether the restaurant has its own delivery fleet or riders. If the restaurant operates with its own riders, they will typically have higher costs, says Chrobog, so TastyUrban gives them a higher revenue share.
The benefit of this model for TastyUrban? It doesn’t have to operate its own dark kitchens.
Chrobog says that dark kitchens come with myriad problems: finding large enough spaces is hard, fitting them out costs north of $500k, and running them is cost-intensive. Not to mention that cities like Paris and Amsterdam are already cracking down on the use of dark kitchens; in Barcelona, they’ve been banned since January 2023.
There are other virtual restaurant franchises founded by former delivery operators that have similarly steered away from operating their own dark kitchens.
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Taster, founded by Anton Soulier, former deputy manager of France at Deliveroo, was one of the first virtual restaurant franchises in Europe, and has been backed by LocalGlobe and Octopus Ventures. There’s also Honest Food, a so-called “ghost restaurant chain” — a series of (often shared) kitchen spaces where food is prepared but not served, which is now owned by Delivery Hero.
Part of TastyUrban’s incentive, says Chrobog, is to help restaurants still recovering from Covid-19 lockdowns to make money.
TastyUrban provides restaurants with a new revenue channel without “incurring any additional costs”, he says, as the company covers the costs of the goods, packaging and marketing.
He adds that restaurants that have signed up to the platform since it launched in July 2022 have already generated upwards of €20k revenue per month.
Lessons from Gorillas
The three cofounders, two of whom previously worked for Deliveroo, feel they've learnt a lot in their years as restaurant delivery operators — and want to do things differently this time around.
Speaking specifically about Gorillas, Chrobog says that the company grew to over 10k employees “too quickly” which “had a very negative effect on culture”.
Also, the 10-minute delivery model, which was essential in the beginning to acquire customers, wasn’t feasible in the long run. “You need a high density of warehouses, which is obviously very expensive. You need an extremely [big] rider fleet and a huge headcount at HQ. And that is not sustainable,” he explains.
Doing away with dark kitchens and fast delivery times is less of a squeeze on employees and gives the company more flexibility to scale without accumulating real estate. TastyUrban is eyeing expansion outside of Germany later this year.
TastyUrban isn’t the only company spawned by Gorillas alumni. Other former employees have already founded companies in areas from fintech to speedy grocery, and they likely won’t be the last. Gorillas founder Kağan Sümer is said to be raising for his own company, investors say.