Ghost kitchens save the restaurant industry during pandemic, but the future is unknown

In their concept and use, ghost kitchens existed before the pandemic.

But in the year since the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020, declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic, the ghost kitchens have turned out to be the catering industry’s response to questions arising from containment measures.

Unlike the arrival of food trucks, which often encountered hostile restaurant inspectors and local politicians keen to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants, ghost kitchens weren’t much noticed by the general public until recently. .

History, however, can see that it was ghost kitchens that allowed the restaurant industry to recover. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) has reported 100,000 restaurants permanently closed, eliminating 3 million jobs and losing $ 240 billion in sales.

COVID-19 mandates have left many restaurateurs looking for costly upgrades, like building outdoor seating or installing more powerful, changeable, and unpredictable HVAC systems.

Others realized that keeping a dining room open to only a fraction of its capacity was nothing more than a way to waste money. They have chosen to cater exclusively to delivery and take-out customers. This business model does not require all of the attributes of a large restaurant.

Only a kitchen is required, and in late 2020, ghost kitchens were the hottest craze in the restaurant industry. Ghost kitchens are often found in “unwanted but convenient locations,” including abandoned restaurants, empty malls, and even shipping containers.

John Kelly, CEO of Zenreach, predicts that ghost kitchens will be the “new normal”.

“All of the trends that we’ve seen emerge during the pandemic are not going to go away,” Kelly said. Food security news. “Food delivery is an area that will likely stabilize to a new standard that is higher after the pandemic than before the pandemic, and that bodes well for ghost kitchens.

“Good quality food ready for delivery without the costs of the traditional restaurant will have a certain appeal to both the restaurant owner and the consumer. “

Kelly says that big brands “have certain advantages over independent restaurateurs in terms of brand awareness and trust.” Diners, he says, are more likely to choose from names they recognize and trust.

Indeed, a market study recently predicted that delivery-only restaurants or ghost kitchens would represent a $ 1 trillion business by 2030,

Not everyone agrees with this. “Ghost kitchens will always be dumb,” food writer Rachel Sugar wrote last month on Grub Street in New York City. “They are not, in fact, the future of restaurants.”

She says the idea that ghost kitchens were the “next big restaurant innovation” took hold before the pandemic, and it only happened because “potential customers have grown accustomed to spending days without leaving the room. House”.

The reviewer who finds delivery or take-out to be equal to that served in a restaurant’s dining room has yet to be found. It remains to be seen whether this reality will hold back the growth of ghost kitchens as dining room capacity becomes available.

Ghost Kitchens work for some entities such as Doordash, which began offering menu items from local restaurants in Palo Alto, Calif., In 2013. Today, it connects more than 390,000 merchants, over 18 million consumers and over a million. (delivery) “Dashers” in the United States, Canada and Australia via its local logistics platform.

SBE Entertainment Group has partnered with US mall owner Simon Property and hotelier Accor in C3 or Creating Culinary Communities to offer virtual restaurant brands, further strengthening competition with DoorDash and Grubhub. Ghost kitchens are popping up in malls that have space because they are no longer in demand by retailers.

C3 has opened 138 Ghost Kitchens by 2021, up from 85 locations planned when it launched in early 2020. It has also recruited 1,000 restaurant workers.

During the pandemic, ghost kitchens reduced delivery costs for the consumer, some observers say. Sunset Square in San Francisco charges $ 5 for delivery to its neighborhood, $ 10 anywhere else in the city, and $ 20 for suburbs.

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Cecil N. Messick