Restaurant and nightclub mogul Sam Nazarian is now setting up ghost kitchens in apartment buildings

  • Sam Nazarian’s ghost kitchen firm C3 signed a partnership with residential developer Akara Living.
  • C3 will provide food to Akara’s tenants and communal spaces as well as deliver offsite.
  • C3 has grown rapidly during the pandemic, partnering with mall REIT Simon, Brookfield, and others.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Ghost kitchens — delivery and takeout-only restaurants that produce food for multiple brands or eateries out of a single space — have proliferated in the last year.

During the pandemic, their owners set up operations in locations from vacant brick-and-mortar eateries and ground-floor retail stores to hotels and industrial buildings. 

Today, Miami-based hospitality giant Sam Nazarian announced that his ghost kitchen company C3 is installing them in a line of luxury buildings developed by Akara Living. Akara is a developer and operator of apartment buildings with perks and design that make them feel like hotels.

Beginning this summer, C3 will open ghost kitchens in Akara’s large rental complexes in Nashville and Phoenix. As Akara opens more of these buildings, branded “Kenect,” in Denver, Miami, and other cities, C3 will also open ghost kitchens in these locations. 

Nazarian’s collaboration with Akara marks a new frontier for ghost kitchens, bringing them to residential real estate for the first time. 

Akara gives apartment dwellers perks — and food

Nazarian, a Miami-based mogul known for buzzy restaurants and nightclubs, built C3 through his holding company SBE Entertainment group and a partnership with Simon, the nation’s leading shopping center real estate investment trust.

Akara Living, founded by CEO Rajen Shashtri, grew out of Shashtri’s experience helping to run Campus Acquisitions, an owner and operator of student housing. Kenect is the label for the company’s current swath of rental buildings, but Akara is also in the process of developing another brand of accommodations centered on healthy living in suburban areas. When those buildings are open, C3 will also service them.

With Kenect, Shashtri said, the goal was to design rental apartments affordable for a “young person moving to a larger city,” while also providing tenants with social programming, luxury finishes, and other amenities like coworking spaces and a pool. 

The exterior of Akara Living’s Nashville Kenect project.Jake Matthews

Now residents can take advantage of another key amenity: a C3 kitchen, which will deliver food to tenants’ apartments and to common areas. C3 will benefit from a built-in customer base as well as central locations in up-and-coming metropolitan areas across the country. 

“There is certainly a lot of synergy between what C3 is doing and what we’re doing,” Shashtri told Insider. “With our hospitality approach to servicing our residents, so much is food- and beverage-driven.”

Nazarian turned to delivery during the pandemic

Nazarian first rose to prominence as the owner and operator of major Los Angeles nightclubs before also expanding to hotels and restaurants. He launched C3 — the name stands for Creating Culinary Communities — in 2019 to bring his restaurant- and brand-building experience to the ghost kitchen world. 

Having recently sold his stake in his hotel business to Accor, which helped to develop C3, Nazarian is now turning the bulk of his attention to ghost kitchens. C3 said it operates 15 brands, including Umami Burger and Krispy Rice, and opened over 200 kitchens with a combined 1,200-plus employees by the end of 2020. 

Nazarian said one of the company’s goals is to find ways to use ingredients across a wide range of different cuisines to make it feasible for one kitchen to produce many types of dishes. 

C3’s nationwide expansion

The company, launched out of partnerships with mall giant Simon and hotelier Accor, has already set up shop in vacant retail spaces and in hotel kitchens. Nazarian said the company has also partnered with Softbank-backed Reef Technology to bring its restaurants to the company’s parking lot ghost kitchens.

Most recently, C3 has teamed up with Graduate Hotels to open in its kitchens. The company has plans for four food halls, too, including at Brookfield’s Midtown office complex Manhattan West.

“We’ve signed hundreds of leases during COVID and we feel that customers are coming back,” Nazarian told Insider.

Inside a C3 kitchen.C3

Shahstri told Insider that C3 was the best fit for Akara because of Nazarian’s hospitality experience. C3’s size, Shahstri added, meant consistent delivery options across all of its buildings. 

Nazarian said he is thrilled by how many options there are for ghost kitchen operators. 

“What’s most exciting is that we’re taking secondary space that you usually couldn’t figure out how to rent in today’s world,” Nazarian said.

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