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After Wave of Criticism, Fried Chicken Chain Fuku Suspends Portland Expansion

Fuku, which tip-toed into Portland through delivery-only ghost kitchens, has decided to ‘pause’ operations in Portland

A sandwich and a paper boat of loaded fries sit on a green tray at Fuku in Boston
A sandwich from Fuku’s Boston location
Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Brooke Jackson-Glidden is the editor of Eater Portland.

So much for Fuku’s Portland pilot program: After just a few days serving fried chicken in the Portland area, David Chang’s national fried chicken shop has ‘paused’ its delivery-only launch in Portland, facing criticism from diners and chefs.

The Oregonian reports that the company has decided to stop its three-month trial in Portland, a partnership with Miami-based ghost kitchen company Reef Kitchens. Ghost kitchens, also known as cloud kitchens, are delivery-only incubators for a number of different restaurants, meant to exist exclusively on apps like Grubhub or DoorDash. Reef Kitchens, specifically, is a part of Reef Technology, a parking lot operator with locations across North America; the company has recently expanded into the ghost kitchens, partnering with chefs like Rachael Ray for delivery-only businesses across the country.

The David Chang partnership has been in the works for months, but when Fuku finally arrived in Portland, it wasn’t with much fanfare. The company launched on apps without any official announcement; the choice initially led many Portlanders to believe that the Fuku locations popping up on Postmates or Grubhub were a mistake or, worse, a deliberate fraud. When the companies finally confirmed that Portland’s Fuku arrival was no joke, chefs and writers began criticizing the choice to begin serving during the coronavirus pandemic, when many chefs are struggling or unable to operate.

Steven Shomler, a Portland-based food writer and publicist specializing in food carts, publicly called for a boycott on social media last week, and several other food cart owners — Han Ly Hwang of Kim Jong Grillin, Justin Hintze of Jojo — quickly vocalized their support of the boycott. Meanwhile, people on social media — especially via Twitter — have criticized their meals delivered from Fuku, complaining about cold fries and missing orders.

“We’re human, and I know that as industry leaders, sometimes you have to listen to what the communities are telling you,” Fuku CEO Alex Munoz-Suarez told the Oregonian. Munoz-Suarez says the company will try to return to Portland once the economy stabilizes, though he isn’t making any promises of an official return. Eater Portland has reached out to both Reef Technology and Fuku for comment.

Fuku [Official]
Fuku puts ‘pause’ on Portland operations after local criticism [O]
How David Chang’s Fried Chicken Empire Flew into Portland Under the Radar [EPDX]
Fuku’s National Expansion Plans Could Hinge on Ghost Kitchens [E]