Customers of Reef, a self-described fastest-growing restaurant company, seem to be paying a price for the startup’s meteoric expansion. The operator of hundreds of nationwide ghost kitchens, which prepare food for fast-food brands of all stripes, allegedly has a major problem with food quality and safety. According to leaked emails obtained by Business Insider, Reef has a pattern of sending out raw and undercooked food to its customers.
The leaked communication shows more than 100 customer complaints detailing instances of raw chicken or burger patties being delivered to customers. Some of the brands mentioned in the emails, which date from late 2020 until October of this year, include virtual concept MrBeast Burger; David Chang–owned fried chicken brand Fuku; as well as Reef’s own virtual brands like Wings & Things, Rebel Wings, and American Eclectic Burger.
RELATED: America’s Second-Biggest Burger Chain Plans to Open 700 New Locations
According to Insider, complaints like “Half of the chicken wings were undercooked, pink and bleeding,” and “The chicken wings were raw,” have come in from several major U.S. and Canadian cities where Reef operates. One customer even claimed the ghost kitchen’s negligence sent them to the hospital: “The chicken gave me food poisoning. I had to go to the emergency room because of abdominal-related issues and food poisoning.”
But customers aren’t the only ones getting the short end of the deal—the lax food quality practices are hurting the reputations of Reef’s partners. The emails show that customers usually blame Reef’s kitchen partners—aka the brands licensing their food to the company’s ghost kitchens—for the botched orders. For example, customers took to Twitter earlier this year to accuse MrBeast Burger of selling them raw chicken and burger patties and burnt burger buns, and generally delivering the wrong items. The virtual brand is made exclusively in ghost kitchens nationwide, some of which include Reef’s parking-lot pods.
Reef has rapidly grown to 320 food kitchens globally since it was founded in 2019 but has demonstrated a pattern of operating without necessary permits in several cities. In New York, the startup had all of its kitchens temporarily shut down after the Health Department found it to be in violation of “numerous” requirements at “multiple” locations. Similar violations were found in Houston, Austin, San Francisco, and Detroit.
The company’s spokesperson told Insider that employee and customer safety is a top priority.
“If any issues of food safety or quality are brought to our attention, we take them seriously and work to address them immediately,” the spokesperson said. “Reef’s brands enjoy an average customer rating of 4.04 out of 5 stars globally across all major delivery-service providers, while preparing orders at a rate of 10 million annually.”
The ghost kitchen operator has deals with several major fast-food entities, including Wendy’s and Nathan’s Famous.
For more, check out:
- After Closing a Significant Number of Locations, This Popular Pizza Chain Will Expand Again in 2022
- This Recovering Restaurant Chain Just Saw Another Dip In Sales
- Despite Widespread Criticism, America’s Largest Sandwich Chain Is Making a Comeback
And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest restaurant news delivered straight to your inbox.