Updated: Apr 16, 2021
So what on earth is a ghost kitchen? Is it a collection of ghosts and witches that come out on Halloween and cook up some potions? Is it haunted kitchens in old manner houses? Neither is correct, not even remotely.
A ghost kitchen, or cloud kitchen, is a relatively modern business approach to the food industry. A ghost kitchen is a kitchen often in large cities that are used only for a delivery business. It is merely a kitchen with no seating, no waiters, no hosts, just chefs and delivery drivers. The food is made then shipped out to people nearby.
Now, this concept truly only works well in large cities with a large number of people wanting delivery. It would not work in a rural town with only a few people ordering delivery.
One of the notable businesses that rents out these ghost kitchen spaces are Cloud Kitchen, founded by the former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in 2016. So indeed, if someone so successful has invested in these kitchens, they must be a great idea... maybe.
Does this sound like a good idea? Perhaps, perhaps not. I see pros and cons across this idea. So let's jump straight in and see how these new ghost kitchens may alter the hospitality industry.
I love going to restaurants, and with that, I love trying new menu items and interacting with the servers. You see, restaurants seem to be split into two categories: the food and the hospitality side. Included in the hospitality side would be the waiters, the ambiance, the act of serving, and not worrying about any cleanup.
With a ghost kitchen, you only get the food side. There is no ambiance, other than your house, no server, other than the delivery driver, so in a way, a ghost kitchen can not be comparable to a restaurant. It is better compared to a grocery store that can deliver pre-made meals at a higher quality.
So you'd think that with losing the hospitality side, your food may be cheaper. You don't have to pay for a large restaurant, don't have to pay servers, front of house managers, etc. But this often isn't the case; these kitchens will usually charge restaurant prices and slap on a nice delivery fee. So now I have to pay the same restaurant price for the ambiance of my house.
But wait, there is so much more. The quality of food won't be the same. You will get food within about five minutes of it being cooked in a restaurant- I hope. This amount could be much longer, especially if you live further from a restaurant. Then there is the plating quality—a lovely white plate, a beautiful and colorful dish plated to perfection... in a restaurant. You're not going to get that experience in delivery. You'll get your nice cardboard or styrofoam box, which completely ruins the experience!
And then, there is the problem of the actual delivery driver. In recent years restaurants have use special packaging to seal fry bags or buy cans of pop to stop the delivery drivers from eating your food. And yes, a restaurant I've worked in has seen this problem and had to take measures against it. So think again before you order food delivered to your door.
So just from that, can you tell I'm not a huge fan of food delivery and, therefore, ghost kitchens? I want my food hot, plated nicely, not stolen from, and the restaurant's hospitality ambiance.
Now, with that being said, this concept does have a couple of promising aspects. For a business owner, you'll cut costs and just have to pay for a kitchen rental. The managers can focus only on food creativity and not on the front of the house.
This concept has even been shown to work, especially during COVID-19. Although numerous restaurants have gone under, many restaurants perform just as well, if not better, than before by focusing solely on take-out and delivery. Additionally, if fear over the virus continues, many people will want to get delivery rather than going to a restaurant where someone may have COVID-19.
My Message to You
Though there are some promising signs for ghost kitchens, I fear that delivery encourages people to eat at home and not cook. Food brings people together, and so does the act of cooking with others and being around others in a restaurant.
So my message to you is this. Cook and eat with those around you at home. When it is safe to do so, support your local restaurants and servers by going into a restaurant and experiencing the ambiance, these restaurants work hard to deliver. With that being said, Ghost kitchens are an exciting concept. Still, they lack many aspects that food so rightfully needs to be respected: served hot and plated masterfully while being served by a waiter in the perfect ambiance.'
“The Flying Chef”