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I’m not gonna lie: putting together our market map on ghost kitchens was hard. The concept as we know it is relatively new, and the lines between the different categories of ghost kitchen might be easy enough to draw in a graphic but are never as solid in real life. For example, CloudKitchens provides kitchen space but it’s also a network of virtual restaurants. Starbucks runs its own kitchens but relies on Alibaba’s Heme supermarkets to provide the space. Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash deliver food but also operate in other areas of the stack.
That overlap, though, is a big part of what makes this area of the restaurant industry such an interesting one to watch. Not only is the 2019 ghost kitchen redefining the restaurant experience as we know it, it’s also redefining the way restaurants operate, the technology they use to do that, and even what their menus offer in any given area. Fat Brands, for example, uses Fatburger locations on the West Coast to also fulfill delivery-only orders for sister brands that would normally only be available to customers in the East.
As we head into the next year, we can expect the overlap of companies and categories to increase as more multi-unit chains try their hand at ghost kitchens, more kitchen infrastructure providers try out their own virtual restaurants, and literal mobility (kitchens on wheels) becomes more commonplace.
Head over to The Spoon for more predictions on what comes next for ghost kitchens (RIP POS?) and to download the map. And since this is such a nascent market that changes weekly, expect more iterations of this map to hit your inbox in the future.
Third-party delivery is staying put. Sort of.
It’s no secret that consumer appetite for delivery is driving the growth of off-premises orders. And while they may be controversial, third-party services like DoorDash and Postmates are a big part of this growth.
The biggest part, by some accounts. This week, CBRE Group noted in a new report that 70 percent of delivery orders will come from third parties by 2022. That’s a no-brainer. These services provide the tech infrastructure, logistics, and actual drivers that are often too expensive for restaurants to operate on their own. Third-party delivery may be expensive for restaurants and paddling through a sea of bad press lately, but it is in many ways necessary for businesses who want (need, actually) to offer off-premises ordering for customers.
Like ghost kitchens, this is a messy, fast-changing market whose model will continue to evolve as restaurants adopt hybrid strategies and new laws are passed regulating how these companies do business.
At-home vertical farms: Big convenience or big expense?
If you still prefer the old-fashioned method of actually cooking food for yourself, Miele’s latest news will be of some interest. As my colleague Chris Albrecht reported this week, the German appliance-maker known for everything from washing machines to coffee systems has acquired Agrilution, a Munich, Germany-based agtech startup known for its Plantcube indoor vertical farm.
As Chris notes, the Plantcube looks like one of those at-home wine fridges, and like any vertical farm uses software to regulate temperature, climate, water levels, and nutrient delivery to crops. The system grows a variety of leafy greens and fits right inside your existing kitchen infrastructure.
Question is, Do people want vertical farms built into their kitchens?
No, setting up a grow system in your home is not as convenient as buying a bag of kale from the store. For those so inclined, though, an at-home vertical farm like Agrilution’s means being able to pick fresh, better tasting ones right out of their own cabinetry. Those living in dense urban areas, where the fire escape is the closest thing to outdoor space, could have an actual at-home garden.
First, though, we have to get over the cost hurdle. Right now, price points of various at-home vertical farming systems go for anywhere between roughly $500 (Ponix Systems) and $3,000-plus (Miele). What we don’t have is abundant data on how much these farms cost consumers in terms of electricity, water, or repairs if the system breaks down. There is also the issue of space. Agrilution’s Plantcube may fit nicely into the under-counter space of a single-family home in Nashville. Your average New York apartment, on the other hand, would be hard-pressed to accommodate one.
Still, it’s a great sign that a major appliance-maker like Miele is showing interest in getting cabinet-to-table greens to more homes in the future.
Until next time,