The Kitchen Collective has nailed the cloud kitchen. Here’s how. 

by | Dec 15, 2022 | Opinion

Change It Up – In the first of our new food innovators series with Everybird Coffee, we meet Harrison Stott and Rob Humphrys, founders of The Kitchen Collective, the first to bring ghost kitchens to New Zealand at scale


Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. Put meat between bread and call it a sandwich. Shove gherkins and herrings into a jar and pickle it. Genius.

So why did it take an OE and a global pandemic for Harrison Stott and Rob Humphrys to come up with the idea of The Kitchen Collective, a cloud kitchen facility that provides more than 40 kitchens for restaurants, food trucks and delivery services?

Afterall, the idea is deceptively simple: create a shared kitchen space close to the city centre, with state-of-art equipment, heaps of storage and parking – and spread the costs across a group of customers. And it’s popular overseas, fuelled by lockdowns and a 300% rise in take-out food. One estimate is that half of American restaurants use ghost kitchens.




“I saw that it was big in the UK. And I sort of assumed that it would be big here too. But it wasn’t so we thought we could bring the model back,” says co-founder Harrison Stott.

It turned out to be harder than they thought. There was the cost. The kitchen fit-outs in Glendene, Auckland, and Tuam St, Christchurch, cost about $1.4 million each (cleverly, they made the landlord pay for that). And then there were the months of set-up costs, lost income and convincing their respective wives.

The hardest part, though, was educating the market. “In the UK, there were already quite a few examples, but we’re the first here so we had to explain the concept to everybody before we could even start the sales pitch. And it’s not helped that there are many different words: ghost, virtual, cloud, offsite and so on.”

The pair prefer cloud kitchen, a hint perhaps at their roots in the tech sector. In the UK, Rob worked at Uber, where he helped small food businesses integrate into Karma Kitchen, the grandpappy of cloud cookery. Harrison too worked in tech sales but it was when joined Karma that he reconnected with fellow Kiwi Rob.

Harrison was already a fan of the idea. “When I saw Karma Kitchens for the first time I was like, ‘I have got to work there’. So I got in touch with the founders and hounded them for a job. I just absolutely loved it. It gave me an opportunity to deep dive into this market. They’d only been operating for about four months and I just fell in love.”


Who’s this then
Harrison Stott and Rob Humphrys, The Kitchen Collective
What’s new
The first to bring cloud or ghost kitchens to New Zealand, at scale
The hardest bit
“Educating the market: describing a cloud kitchen and the need for it”
The high point
“Opening day. We worked so bloody hard to set it up. Someone said afterwards that Harrison and I looked like we were in love with each other after gazing into each other’s eyes with just pure excitement of having got to that point.”


Happy punters

It wasn’t until Rob returned to New Zealand in 2020 that he connected with Harrison to revive the idea. It took many months and two more lockdowns but eventually TK Collective was opened in May this year and it appears to be working, with customers including Paper Plane, Lord of the Fries, The Sustainable Food Co and one-offs like school groups. 

An early convert was Jo Bros, the burger business which started as a food truck and now has two outlets in Auckland’s Titirangi and Pt Chevalier. Co-owner Josh Barlow says TK Collective has allowed Jo Bros to double its truck business by providing food prep and parking space. “We can take on much larger events now. Tonight we’re at the ASB staff party catering 500 portions per night. In January we’ll be in the Heineken tent at the ASB Open. Without a dedicated ghost kitchen there’s no way to do it.”

Josh says he admires the cajones required to start TK Collective. “It’s bloody ballsy. You know, no one would sign up a lease with them until it was all built, so they had to build the whole thing before they got any income. It wasn’t until we saw it that we really understood how well it could work for our business. I’ve taken my family through and they were really surprised at the quality and scale of it. It’s really impressive.”

The Kitchen Collective has 40 private kitchens in two locations, plus shared spaces

But wait there’s more

Rob says the biggest kick so far came on opening day, seeing all the elements come together with real customers doing real foodie things. “We worked so bloody hard to set it up. Someone said afterwards that Harrison and I looked like we were in love with each other after gazing into each other’s eyes with just pure excitement of having got to that point.

“The reality is that it takes a whole group of people to bring a business like this to life: investors, advisors, our builders – CM Interiors – and our tenants. But I think we especially want to thank our wives Maddy and Anna. Without them we couldn’t have done this.

Asked what success looks like in, say, five years time, Harrison says they’re hoping to create a sense of community.  Already he’s seen tenants sharing ideas. “Our success depends entirely on their success. Obviously, we want them to stay but wouldn’t it be amazing if they outgrew us? Success would be knowing that we played a role in the success of both our tenants, and also the wider food sector. There’s a lot of innovation going right now and it feels great to be part of that.”

And speaking of growth, the TK Collective is looking at another site in Auckland and has plans for Wellington. In tech they talk about the first-mover advantage. TK Collective might just have the edge.


The Change It Up series is proudly sponsored by Everybird Drink it black, with milk, mylk or sugar – Everybird coffee is a versatile drop that’s best enjoyed however you like it. Certified Fairtrade, organic and climate neutral, it feels as good as it tastes, and it’s now available at Supie. 




About the Author

Vincent Heeringa

Hi, I'm Vincent! I'm a co-founder of The Feed, a writer, marketer and PR expert specialising in food, tech and sustainability. In a previous life I was publisher of Idealog, Stoppress, NZ Marketing and Good magazines and helped establish the Science Media Centre. I'm also the host of a podcast ‘This Climate Business’. When I'm not burning the midnight oil, I'm hitting the town or planting trees with my wife Sarah. Ping me to talk about all things food. @vheeringa

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