Austin restaurants look toward post-pandemic future at Kitchen United Mix on Burnet Road

An employee at Hawaiian Bros. Island Grill prepares a takeout order at Kitchen United Mix on June 4. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
An employee at Hawaiian Bros. Island Grill prepares a takeout order at Kitchen United Mix on June 4. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

An employee at Hawaiian Bros. Island Grill prepares a takeout order at Kitchen United Mix on June 4. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Kitchen United Mix opened on Burnet Road in late May. The takeout-only shared kitchen space has seven restaurants either now open or coming soon. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Chicken sandwich spot Hawt Chicken is one of the restaurants now open at Kitchen United Mix. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
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Indian restaurant Bombay Walla from local owner Ash Ahuja is now open in the Kitchen United Mix facility on Burnet Road. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
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An employee at Bao'd Up prepares orders at the local restaurant's new location at Kitchen United Mix. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Before opening Bao'd Up in the Mueller neighborhood in 2017, Ting Lin returned to China, the country where he grew up, to study the styles of bao he wanted to put on his menu. He and co-founder Alex Wu aimed to bring a different style of food to Austinites—but they also noticed in addition to different cuisines, American and Chinese diners had different habits.

Americans are more likely to go out to a sit-down restaurant, while takeout is more popular in China, but that has been changing over the last few years, according to Bao'd Up marketing director Cici Zhu, and the takeout trend in the U.S. was only accelerated by recent forced shutdowns due to the coronavirus.

"Especially during COVID-19, in this period of time, takeout will become more mainstream. The entire food industry, we feel like it’s moving this way," Zhu said.

To get ahead of that trend, Bao'd Up opened its fourth location on June 4 in the Kitchen United Mix facility on Burnet Road in North Austin. The shared kitchen space offers 13 small kitchens for restaurant owners to provide on-site takeout and delivery service. Customers can order on the restaurant's website, the Kitchen United website, via a third-party delivery app or at a digital kiosk inside the space.

Kitchen United started in 2018 in Pasadena, California, and now has four additional locations—Chicago; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Austin. Joy Lai, Kitchen United's chief marketing officer, said the model helps restaurants looking to offset the loss of dine-in business by expanding takeout, but this change in the way people eat started long before the pandemic.


"What got us this idea was the growth in takeout and delivery. We saw consumer behavior changing and a better way to address it," Lai said.

Lakhbir Singh, the owner of Round Rock-based Indian restaurant Teji's, said he expects it will be months before dine-in business at his four area brick-and-mortar restaurants returns. But he hopes the Kitchen United model will allow him to expand his business to more markets—possibly out of state—as those dine-in customers slowly return.

"This model was something I wanted four or five years ago," Singh said. "This is always something I wanted to do."

Austin's Kitchen United Mix location has seven restaurants either now open or coming soon. The location has 13 kitchens, including a space that will be provided free for local nonprofit Keep Austin Fed to prepare meals.

Kitchen United Mix

  • Bombay Walla: Indian, now open

  • Bao'd Up: Chinese bao, now open

  • Dog Haus: hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, coming soon

  • Hawaiian Bros. Island Grill: Hawaiian, now open

  • Hawt Chicken: chicken sandwiches, now open

  • Sustain Burger: burgers, coming soon

  • Teji's: Indian, now open

By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at jflagler@communityimpact.com


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