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operator trends


GHOST KITCHENS The Rise of


How delivery-focused


concepts can bolster the industry’s recovery from COVID-19


By Ethan Gibble Contributing Writer


As restaurants across the country grapple with the new realities and restrictions of serving diners in a pandemic, the importance of delivery has only become more pronounced. Consumers were already trending in that direction before COVID-19 hit – a 2019 NPD study found that digital restaurant orders grew by 23 percent over the previous four years – but for many operators, delivery is now the primary way of doing business. This is reflected by the NPD’s own data, which shows that digital orders soared by 63 percent through March 2020, a period which captures the initial wave of the pandemic.


The shift to delivery-based businesses is no surprise. Driven in part by the popularity of food delivery services such as Grubhub, DoorDash, and UberEats, the food delivery industry is predicted to grow from $43 billion in 2017 to $467 billion in 2025, according to financial services firm Morgan Stanley. Restauranteurs, looking to accommodate these new consumer behaviors, had already been contemplating new delivery-focused business models, and that thinking has only accelerated alongside the implementation of social distancing practices. For many, the answer is ghost kitchens:


MICHAEL ANDERSON


DIRECTOR OF FIT GLOBAL SYSTEMS INTEGRATION WELBILT INC.


restaurant spaces that service guests purely though delivery or pickup, with no dining on the premises. Chains such as Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, and PF Chang’s have already invested in ghost kitchens of their own, while others, such as Denver’s ChefReady, are launching ghost kitchens that will serve multiple restaurant tenants in a market. “While ghost kitchens aren’t new, tens of thousands of restaurants are now relying on them to offer take-out and delivery to stay in business,” says Bill Johnson, president and CEO of Welbilt Inc. Given the growth of ghost kitchens before the pandemic struck, the emphasis on take-out in the months since, and potential changes in consumer behavior once coronavirus passes, these innovative spaces are now positioned to play a key role in the restaurant industry’s recovery.


38 FEDA News & Views


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