Ghost kitchens are possibly the future of fast food
- I visited the first Ghost Kitchens restaurant in a Walmart in New York.
- Ghost kitchen businesses have exploded over the past year and a half as delivery has increased.
- Virtual restaurants reduce labor and real estate costs, making them attractive to owners.
In my work as a retail journalist, I eat a lot of fast food. I even do a lot of in-app orders and contactless pickups, but nothing got me ready to eat at Ghost Kitchens’ first Walmart store in Rochester, New York.
The restaurant is basically a large open space with white walls and nothing else. A TV scanned the ads for the brands that Ghost Kitchens served and served as a focal point simply because there was nothing else except a trash can and larger ads on the windows. It was unlike any other restaurant I had ever been to. In fact, it reminded me of a doctor’s office waiting room more than anything I could think of – even though there were no seats.
The concept of Ghost Kitchens reduces a fast food business to the most basic elements. Orders are placed through large touch screens located throughout the room, requiring no direct interaction between customers and workers. Several dozen branded menus come out of the same kitchen, which had five employees at the time of my visit. The lack of tables, napkins, condiments, and other usual things in the average McDonald’s makes it clear that customers aren’t supposed to linger or eat their food there. It’s another way to keep costs down – workers don’t need to spend time cleaning tables, cleaning floors, or restocking ketchup.
Ghost kitchens, also known as cloud kitchens or virtual concepts, are becoming increasingly relevant as several large players compete in the growing industry. Reef Technology, which just signed an agreement to open 700 ghost kitchens with Wendy’s, is building mobile kitchens in parking lots and garages to prepare food for delivery with fast food partners. It is the largest of these operations in North America, with 5,000 locations.
CloudKitchens, from Uber founder Travis Kalanick, has deals with well-known brands including Chick-fil-A, Wingstop, and Noodles and Company. Other competitors, like Kitchen United, All Day Kitchens, and the Ghost Kitchen brand, which I visited, are also growing.
Ghost kitchens exploded at the start of COVID-19, when brands rushed to build delivery infrastructure and recoup some of the sales lost by dining room closures. Now, more than a year into the onset of a still raging pandemic, they make sense for a different reason: they don’t require so many workers.
Restaurants across the country, from full service to fast food restaurants, are struggling to hire and retain workers to keep operations going. Some Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Dunkin ‘and other chain stores have tested short-term solutions such as reducing hours, closing dining rooms, or disrupting the service of certain meals. A survey of restaurateurs from the National Restaurant Association found that 78% said they didn’t have enough workers to run their business, and 75% said their biggest problem was finding staff.
Market research firm Euromonitor predicts that the The ghost kitchen segment could represent a trillion dollar industry by 2030.
“Labor savings are definitely a big plus for the growth of this segment,” Pitchbook senior analyst Alex Frederick told Restaurant Dive. But, “brick-and-mortar restaurants have evolved to maximize dining space and minimize kitchen space in an effort to maximize profits. Most restaurants are not optimized for delivery,” he said. -he declares.
Do you have a story to share on a chain store or restaurant? Email this reporter at [email protected]