retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post has a story about the rise of ghost kitchens (or, depending on your preference, dark kitchens, virtual restaurants, or cloud kitchens), defining them as " kitchens without dining rooms, culinary concepts designed for delivery, most never becoming a bricks-and-mortar destination for diners."

"The path forward for restaurateurs trying to escape the collapse of their business models is illuminated by a digital glow," the Post writes.  "The stratospheric rise in online ordering and food delivery during the pandemic has prompted restaurateurs to chase those delivery dollars in a number of novel ways.  For many, it’s a matter of survival."

The story goes on:  "Ghost or dark kitchens can be urban warehouses containing multiple small kitchens leased by a restaurant or restaurant’s subcontractor for delivery only, and orders are often delivered by 'third-party aggregators' such as DoorDash, Uber Eats or Grubhub. Sometimes restaurant companies launch a virtual brand as a trial balloon, a time-limited, digital-only test run of a concept under consideration for a future bricks-and-mortar restaurant. A virtual restaurant concept also can be produced in an existing bricks-and-mortar restaurant as an ancillary revenue stream — so, a restaurant within a restaurant."

The reason it is a critical and potentially life-saving development:  "Technomic, a consulting firm for the restaurant industry, estimates that 20 to 25 percent of independently owned restaurants will never reopen."

KC's View:

There seems to be little question that this concept - which runs in parallel with the notion of dark stores and micro-fulfillment centers - marks a trend that virtually every retailer and restaurateur has to consider.  Especially in the food industry, which may be forever changed by the impact of the pandemic, these concepts allow businesses to survive and maybe be even closer to the customer than ever before.  And that's what this is all about - figuring out ways to connect to the shopper more intimately.