A virtual food court delivered straight to your door. A fresh take on new restaurants. A chance for customers to have control over their dining. Ghost kitchens are popping up around the country and changing the way restaurants operate and customers dine. The shifting tide matches the growing trend of experiential retail and signals potential changes that could impact other industries.

1.What Are Ghost Kitchens?

Think of it as a co-working space for food or a restaurant without a storefront. Also known as virtual kitchens, ghost kitchens strip down the traditional dining establishment by removing dining areas and fancy décor. Instead, they serve as large kitchens for restaurants to prepare food to deliver to customers. Numerous restaurants can operate out of the same ghost kitchen, either working from the same facility or breaking the space into separate areas. DoorDash recently launched a shared ghost kitchen with four diverse restaurants using the same space.  Customers can order from any combination of the restaurants in the same order and have it delivered all at once. DoorDash Kitchens introduce restaurants to new customers without having to open an entire dining area. A number of other large companies operate shared spaces for numerous restaurants.

Other restaurants prefer to host their own virtual kitchens and use third-party delivery companies to streamline logistics. In Denver, high-scale restaurant Blue Island Oyster Bar created a sub-brand for the millennial delivery crowd. Denver Lobster Shop operates out of the same kitchen without an actual dining area. The move allows the main restaurant to reach an entirely new group of customers looking for quality seafood delivered with a lower price tag.

The benefits of a ghost kitchen are numerous for dining companies. For one, restaurants can drastically cut their operating costs by having fewer employees and less square footage. Without having to wash serving dishes or set tables, the companies can streamline operations, innovate and focus on creating quality menu items. Ghost kitchens also provide opportunities for newer restaurants trying to make it in the notoriously risky industry. The initial investment to operate in a ghost kitchen is much smaller than opening a full dine-in restaurant, which could allow more restaurants to take the plunge.

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