Denver, CO-based ChefReady will launch its first ghost kitchen later this summer, in part to help keep restaurants alive that have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. According to a press release sent to The Spoon, the facility will open in July in Denver and provide space for 10 restaurants or restaurant concepts wanting to focus specifically on delivery.
Speaking in today’s press release, ChefReady cofounder Nili Malach Poynter said that when the company first examined the ghost kitchen concept, they found that “operate with a ‘churn and burn’ mentality, resulting in an unprofitably high tenant turnover. We decided to create a company that offers the convenience of a ghost kitchen, but with more of a ‘mom and pop’ personalized level of customer service, as well as greater efficiency, and a ‘greener’ footprint.”
Which is something a lot of restaurants are going to need soon.
That the pandemic is wrecking havoc on the restaurant industry is a point that’s starting to become old-hat. Many restaurants, especially independents, have already closed permanently. Many more will in the coming months thanks to the metaphorical train wreck of lost revenue, reduced capacity, upset business models, high rents, and many other factors converging at once on the industry.
Ghost kitchens, meanwhile, have so far been an obvious solution for larger chains that already generate the kind of demand needed to justify the expense of an off-premises-only location. But as restaurants close their doors forever, the concept might also be a way for them to save their business without the extra expense of running a brick-and-mortar location.
For ChefReady, the idea is to provide restaurants a way to keep their doors open without actually having to reopen any actual doors.
ChefReady will provide restaurants with fully equipped kitchen space they can customize to some degree, as well as guidance on marketing, permits, and other areas of operations. Membership includes integration with third-party delivery providers. As with other ghost kitchens, there is also the benefit of lower overhead costs, since equipment is provided and rent is typically lower due to restaurants using less space. And for any restaurant trying to operate in this pandemic era, ghost kitchens provide the added benefit of not having to worry about the social distance guidelines and crowd control that comes with operating a front of house.
In all likelihood, the pandemic will accelerate the adoption of ghost kitchens, which were already getting popular beforehand. Kitchen United just announced a new facility in Austin, TX. Zuul Kitchens, which opened its first facility in 2019 in SoHo, NYC, recently teamed up with Figure 8 to start a ghost kitchen consulting firm. Equipment manufacturer Middleby is selling out-of-the-box ghost kitchen solutions, and there are plenty others in the space.
While ChefReady didn’t say it was targeting a specific type of restaurant with its facility, one area that could benefit would be family dining. Those are your full-service restaurants like Applebee’s, Denny’s or the independent equivalents. Full-service restaurants have taken the hardest hit over the last few months in terms of sales declines, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. A recent survey found that 66 percent of consumers would not immediately eat in a restaurant dining room once it reopened.
As to whether fine dining restaurants could benefit from ghost kitchens remains to be seen. Food is just one part of the experience of many upscale establishments, and that experience is tough to replicate in a to-go box. For smaller fast causals, family dining joints, and other indies, though, ChefReady’s approach to ghost kitchens might be just what they need to keep the lights on another day.