No, a ghost kitchen isn’t serving ectoplasmic meals. As USA Today informs us, the “Ghost Kitchen” is a kitchen designed to be used for delivery-only meals. There’s no dine-in service here, nor are there any physical premises either. Customers can order their meals from any online food service like GrubHub or UberEats and get it delivered. Only, the company doesn’t actually have a kitchen or exist in a physical space. These ghost kitchens don’t demonstrate quartz countertops, but that doesn’t make them any less professional. These kitchens are exploding in popularity, and before long, we may start experiencing the restaurant industry differently. As it stands, they’re already making waves as a practical way to get food to customers.
Experimental Retail At Its Finest
Many businesses are getting in on the ghost kitchen trend because it’s relatively easy to set up. Forbes notes that it’s one of the most popular trends for experimental retail. All a business has to do is set up their preferred type of meals and then outsource those recipes to an existing kitchen, paying them for their service. When an order comes in, the kitchen prepares it and has it ready for a delivery person. Ghost kitchens are the natural culmination of what crowdfunding and outsourcing lead to. In a world where food preparation and delivery are always in high demand, and social distancing is necessary, this might be the “next big thing.”
What Makes Ghost Kitchens a Force to be Reckoned With?
The growth of food delivery services stands to get even more impressive over the next year. Marketforce notes that food delivery services are already surging in popularity. However, what sets ghost kitchens apart is their ability to combine food delivery with another type of service – the boutique business. Small businesses that already provide food services can expand to broader markets and serve more customers because of the availability of ghost kitchens. Locations that already have fully staffed kitchens stand to benefit by offering their services to smaller companies. However, it’s not just small and medium enterprises that are getting in on this deal.
Large Companies See the Promise
The Motley Fool mentions that two companies, Starbucks and Wingstop, are looking at spreading the ghost kitchen model in different areas. Starbucks is looking at the Chinese market since pressure from Chinese coffee company Luckin Coffee is affecting their bottom line in the Asian market. Wingstop is looking at a more traditional space in New York City. The increased number of people ordering food delivery because of shelter-in-place orders makes it an excellent idea for a small business to tap into a ready market. Food delivery services have made the idea of a ghost kitchen a unique one that could only operate within the sharing environment.
Spreading Around the World
The New Yorker reports on several ghost kitchen companies throughout the US, such as Reef, Zuul, and Kitchen United. While their approach to the ghost kitchen model may be different, the aim is still to provide kitchen services to companies. What we may start seeing is a move towards a more “dropshipping” model for food providers. Where Shopify offers small businesses the chance to open a retail business marketing goods from China, ghost kitchens are likely to start offering small entrepreneurs the opportunity to design and customize their own menus and have it prepared and delivered to customers ordering through a customized app or online food delivery service. It’s not too far-fetched to think we may see that within the next few years. Entrepreneurs are very likely already working on similar ideas.
What This Means for Traditional Kitchens
Unlike other crowdsourcing businesses, ghost kitchens may allow space for the traditional companies it seeks to replace to find a niche. Being a chef is a specialized skill. Traditional kitchens have the option to lease their services to others as ghost kitchens. Instead of replacing small businesses, it helps them to limit their expenditure by moving to a delivery-only model. There will still be places where customers can visit in person and experience the ambiance, but for the world, at this point, the appeal is more towards delivery-only food. Whether this will change once people can move about freely in public spaces remains to be seen.
The Next Big Thing On the Horizon?
Whether ghost kitchens will reach their potential or not comes down to the simple laws of demand and supply. Ghost kitchens have the potential to change the foodservice world as so many crowdsourcing applications have done before them. If customers and small entrepreneurs realize the potential and buy into the idea, it can be a considerable change for small businesses and large enterprises. Only time will tell if they manage to live up to this limitless potential.