Food trend alert: Ghost kitchens will be huge in 2020, but what on earth are they?
Slimer won't be cooking you dinner any time soon, don't worry
When you order food online, you probably give little thought to the precise kitchen your meal is being cooked in — focusing more readily on why it's taking so long, or whether you should bother warming plates up in the oven or just eat it out of its wrapping.
New York is the largest market for food delivery in America, and demand is only growing. With Deliveroo in Europe, Swiggy in India and DoorDash and Uber Eats in the US, the global online food delivery industry is set to supersize to a hefty $200 billion by 2025.
We have access to thousands of restaurants and millions of dishes in a click or two and that's already having a huge impact on how many of us are eating out. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver even cited online food delivery services as being one of the main reasons his restaurant chain went, ahem, belly-up.
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Let the hunger games begin!
All those food orders are putting a strain on existing restaurant kitchens and so the solution will be found in ghost kitchens also known as "cloud" kitchens and "dark" kitchens.
What on earth are they, you ask? The suspense! Ghost kitchens are attached to restaurants you can't eat in, or housed in warehouses you probably walk past unwittingly everyday.
The kitchens sole purpose is to fulfil off-premises orders fast and what began as a little-known concept is now a major talking point in how the food industry evolve to will meet customer demand for delivery and takeout orders in the next few years.
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Who you gonna call?
Companies like Kitchen United, and Zuul already provide kitchen infrastructure to other brands, while in Europe the German company Keatz set up ghost kitchens in Berlin and has expanded to 10 sites across Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona and Munich. Travis Kalanick, the former chief executive of Uber, has been working on CloudKitchens, a ghost kitchen start-up in the U.S.
Meanwhile Starbucks is building out its own express stores that will function largely as ghost kitchens for delivery orders with other major brands set to follow suit in 2020.
A big positive is smaller start-up restaurants around the world can get their menus to the masses without the crippling overheads incurred by restaurant real estate in major cities.
Zuul Kitchens, for example, who opened a facility in Lower Manhattan in September. The space is shared between six restaurant brands including new and established names like Sweetgreen, Junzi (a fast casual Chinese brand) and Stone Bridge Pizza and Salad (a fast casual pizza and salad brand) who can now reach more hungry New Yorkers than ever.
Has it hit the U.K. yet? Chef Greg Marchand who runs the kitchen at Frenchie Covent Garden and Michelin-starred Frenchie Rue du Nil in Paris shared his thoughts on this with Food Tribe: “There will be an increase in the number of dark (ghost) kitchens in restaurants across the U.K., due to the increase in food delivery services like Uber Eats," he says. "As the restaurant market is struggling groups will be trying to tap into the fast food market in order to increase profits.”
What does this mean for the rest of us?
Greater variety of choice, faster deliveries and hotter food on arrival we hope! Score!
This is a major indication the tech world and culinary world are aligning as we move into this new decade — or is it a just a glaring sign we all need to get out more?