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New 'virtual kitchen' startup aims to put idle kitchens to use for delivery


Zimbly Eat CEO and co-founder Mark Howard

Zimbly Eat CEO and co-founder Mark Howard

Zimbly Eat CEO and co-founder Mark Howard

The former boss of Q-Park and B&Q in Ireland has launched a 'virtual kitchen' startup to put under-utilised commercial kitchen space to use for deliveries.

Virtual kitchens, also known as dark or ghost kitchens, use cooking spaces or off-site kitchens to prepare food strictly for delivery, often under a dedicated online brand.

Zimbly Eat was co-founded by Mark Howard, a former managing director of Q-Park Ireland and general manager of B&Q. He said the startup has signed up five restaurants in Bray for the initial launch, with Malahide to follow in the coming weeks.

This food delivery model has attracted much attention from investors, with Peter Thiel's Founders Fund last week leading a $20m (€16.9m) round in Virtual Kitchen, while former Uber chief Travis Kalanick founded CloudKitchens, backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.

Howard said the model can create a separate revenue stream for restaurants by preparing pre-ordered ready meals and dishes under Zimbly Eat's brands during quiet periods.

"It is the early part of the week when they're totally underutilised. From our conversations, they run even less than 40pc on those days, so there's absolutely plenty of scope," he said.

Zimbly Eat has partnered with Danish delivery startup Doorhub for logistics. Doorhub country manager Leanne Purcell said it will be working with the company on expanding in the rest of Ireland and "hopefully into the UK soon afterwards because we've just launched in the UK ourselves".

It will face stiff competition in the Irish market from delivery giants like Just Eat and Deliveroo, but Howard said there's space to carve out a niche.

"Because it's our brand, we will do active marketing on behalf of the clients under the Zimbly brand, whereas other aggregators wouldn't do that."

The company has received early-stage backing from UK investor Harish Pillai, who comes from a background in the oil industry.

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Howard added that after gathering an initial customer base, the "next step is going to investors and start raising some funds".

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