Today, the third-party delivery service DoorDash announced its Reopen for Delivery program. Through it, restaurants that were forced to close due to COVID-19 can “re-establish their foot print in their city” by reviving their businesses as virtual restaurants run out of ghost kitchens, according to a press release sent to The Spoon.
The program will select restaurants that were forced to close because of the pandemic and pair them with ghost kitchens and virtual restaurant facilities around the country. For example, Chicago-based Krazy Hog BBQ, the first restaurant to join the program, is operating its delivery-only concept out of virtual kitchen company Á La Couch’s space. Á La Couch is also home to restaurant brands like Wow Bao and Mac’d.
DoorDash said it will use this model of pairing restaurants with kitchen providers for other businesses, though it hasn’t named any besides Krazy Hog at the moment. DoorDash operates its own ghost kitchen facility in Northern California but has not said whether the location will play a part in the Reopen for Delivery program.
In addition to kitchen space, restaurants will also have the option to cook and fulfill their own orders or outsource that work to the kitchen facility’s existing staff. DoorDash will, of course, provide the technical logistics for order processing and the drivers for the last mile of delivery.
The program is reminiscent of Deliveroo’s “Restaurant Rescue Team” initiative from 2019, where the UK-based service would nab struggling restaurants and rebrand them as delivery-only concepts under Deliveroo’s ghost kitchen program.
Like Deliveroo’s program, Reopen for Delivery is one way restaurants can continue serving customers without incurring some of the high overhead costs of running a full brick-and-mortar location complete with front-of-house space and staff.
The deal, of course, comes with some compromises. Since DoorDash is powering Reopen for Delivery, restaurants that sign up with the program are to some degree locked into the delivery service’s infrastructure. And they’re presumably still going to pay the high commission fees that have caused so much controversy of late.
For many, though, there may be no other options right now. Ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants are currently being hailed as a lifeline for many restaurants struggling in the wake of the pandemic. But setting up a ghost kitchen operation requires a certain amount of demand and capital not every business has. Having a third party like DoorDash facilitate that process is, for better or worse, a cheaper, faster way to fulfill off-premises orders while we wait for the restaurant biz to get back on its feet.