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“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.”


— Bill Johnson President and CEO Welbilt Inc.


BILL JOHNSON PRESIDENT AND CEO WELBILT INC.


Defining Ghost Kitchens


Some ghost kitchens – aka dark kitchens, cloud kitchens, and virtual kitchens – support an individual brand, while others accommodate multiple brands under the same roof. “A standalone ghost kitchen is probably more for someone who doesn’t want to share resources,” explains Michael Anderson, director of FIT Global Systems Integration for Welbilt. “Maybe they have some trade secrets that they don’t want to get out to the public. But shared spaces like commissaries are great, too, because it’s a less-expensive upfront investment for operators when they’re sharing walk-ins, dry storage, and prep spaces in an already equipped kitchen.” Welbilt has been a leader in the ghost kitchen space, and in late-May it held a 90-minute webinar to help restauranteurs and investors understand the concept and how they can use it to bolster expansion. The webinar was cohosted by Kitchen United, Uber Eats, Euromonitor International, and FEDA member Concept Services.


“The ghost kitchen model has a lot of benefits,” Johnson says, “whether you’re running a start-up or an established restaurant, including lower costs and faster time to market.” Using a ghost kitchen


allows owners to streamline their operations and optimize workflows while offering flexibility that’s not usually feasible in traditional brick-and-mortar settings. “It also allows you to test new concepts quickly and inexpensively,” he adds. “Before COVID-19, we saw trends with concepts that wanted to change their menus more often than a regular restaurant,” Anderson says. “With a dining room, you have artwork, décor, and things like that to consider. When you start changing your concept out to address industry trends, it all becomes very expensive. But with a ghost kitchen, if you start something like a bowl concept and that trend starts to die out after six months, you can much more easily adapt to a different menu.” Beyond the unique versatility they offer, ghost kitchens have plenty of direct fiscal benefits, too. While traditional restaurants benefit from being in highly populated areas with a lot of foot traffic, ghost kitchens thrive just as well in more secluded areas that won’t demand top real-estate dollars. There’s also no need to invest in extra space for a dining area, the furniture and décor to outfit it, or the labor needed to clean and maintain it. In fact, many ghost kitchens are able to take a very minimalistic approach to labor in general.


Summer 2020 39


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