Come next week there will be a new kitchen in town, but it won’t have any dining room attached. Zuul Kitchens, a ghost kitchen facility that will exist solely for the purpose of helping restaurants fulfill delivery orders, will launch operations in New York City starting in September, according an article from Eater NY.
Zuul will open its first facility in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. According to the Eater article, the 5,000-square-foot space will house nine kitchens and house Sweetgreen, Junzi, and other chains looking to grow the number of delivery orders they can fulfill. Restaurants will pay a monthly membership fee (undisclosed at the moment) that covers kitchen space as well as equipment.
Ghost kitchens are basically restaurant kitchens without a dining room or front-of-house operation. Back in December of 2018, The Spoon predicted that the rise of ghost kitchens would be a major trend unfolding over 2019. So far, that’s been the case. Kitchen United, a major player when it comes to offering restaurants shared kitchen facilities for delivery-only orders, has been rapidly expanding across the U.S., opening or planning to open locations in Atlanta, GA, Austin, TX, Columbus, OH, as well as Washington, D.C. and NYC. Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick runs a network of delivery-focused facilities called CloudKitchens. Outside the U.S., Starbucks opened ghost kitchens in China to fulfill delivery orders and Uber is rumored to be dabbling with them in Europe.
Ghost Kitchens serve a couple of different purposes. They provide a place for existing restaurants to fulfill more delivery orders and also serve as facilities for food entrepreneurs and restaurants to test out new concepts. For example, restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You just announced a partnership with the folks behind the Whole30 program to open a virtual, delivery-only Whole30 Restaurant, with food delivered by Grubhub.
For the SoHo locations, Zuul will focus on established restaurants that have existing brick-and-mortar locations but are looking to grow their delivery orders.
Zuul told Eater it is aiming to fulfill delivery orders in 15 minutes total from the time the order is placed, which would certainly satisfy consumers’ need for speed when it comes to food nowadays. Whether or not the company can meet that goal on every order will depend on the people actually delivering the food. Zuul is using Uber Eats, Grubhub, and DoorDash services for the actual delivery, so part of the 15-minute strategy is at the mercy of those couriers. That said, Zuul is apparently offering drivers a waiting area that includes plenty of phone charging stations, places to sit, and refreshments like coffee and tea, all of which could entice drivers to arrive a little early so they’re onsite as soon as an order is ready for delivery.
For now, Zuul will focus on the New York market, which means it won’t have a ton of direct competition at first. That will surely change once Kitchen United comes to town.