Ghost kitchen provider Zuul Kitchens and delivery consulting firm Figure 8 Logistics announced via email today the launch of Zuul Studios. The initiative combines Zuul’s operational chops when it comes to ghost kitchens with Figure 8’s expertise around delivery strategy and logistics for restaurants.
Zuul launched its first ghost kitchen facility in NYC last year for restaurants needing more space to fulfill off-premises orders. Like other major ghost kitchen networks, Zuul provides members with kitchen infrastructure, labor support, delivery fulfillment, and consultations about menu and POS integrations.
Meanwhile, Figure 8 is a consulting firm for food delivery businesses that works with restaurant operators to analyze their existing strategies and improve upon them. Helping restaurants launch native delivery — that is, delivery orders that originate on the restaurant’s digital properties, not those of third parties — is a key offering Figure 8 pushes.
With Zuul Studios, it seems the two companies have put the best of their respective capabilities together to offer restaurants both the physical space to fulfill more delivery orders and the strategic know-how to build a stronger business around off-premises offerings. Zuul Studios says will help restaurants design, build, and launch ghost kitchen operations, configure an affordable tech stack for off-premises models, and launch virtual restaurant brands.
According to the press release, “Zuul Studios acts as a catalyst for helping restaurants and real estate owners remain competitive and develop sustainable food delivery business models. Combining Zuul’s expertise operating ghost kitchens and Figure 8’s experience in food delivery consulting, Zuul Studios is able to create innovative delivery strategies for their clients.”
Of course right now, the pandemic has turned most restaurants into ghost kitchens that can only serve delivery and takeout orders. And though restaurants are slowly reopening, by and large they won’t return to the pre-coronavirus days of packed dining rooms. For QSRs and fast-casual spots that survive, off-premises will be an important element of the overall restaurant business model of the future.
Ages ago, Chowly’s Sterling Douglass mentioned that when it comes to ghost kitchens, it’s “a tough business, in some ways tougher than running a traditional restaurant.” That’s still true. A lot of the methodology, whether around operations or financials, that would apply to a dine-in restaurant isn’t relevant in a ghost kitchen setting. Plus, many restaurants aren’t even sure of how to determine whether they have the demand to even warrant a ghost kitchen operation. As businesses shift into this new and very off-premises-focused normal, many of these questions will need to be addressed.
That makes a consulting firm for ghost kitchens a potentially attractive sell right now. Zuul Studios hasn’t publicly released numbers on how much they charge for consulting fees or kitchen space. To be honest, it’s probably out of reach for many small restaurants, though they probably won’t have the customer demand anyway. For bigger chains now looking to make delivery a bigger part of their business, teaming up with Zuul Studios might be a way to ensure smoother operations and a better off-premises strategy overall going forward.