Updated: Aug 18
Ghost Kitchen is one of the latest buzzwords popping up in the lexicon of the silicon-valley startup ecosystem. Dozens of independent online brands have begun accruing cult-like followings, allowing celebrity chefs and pop-up shops to grow quickly without the need for a devoted storefront. These faceless kitchens are ushering in a new wave of nomadic restaurants enabled by food delivery services. The ghost kitchen trend is revolutionizing even the industry's most rooted mainstays, drawing big name corporations like Chik-Fil-a, Burger King, and Wendy's onto the playing field.
In an August 11th press release, Wendy's announced intentions to expand their partnership with Reef Technology, a Miami-based ghost kitchen service, to "open and operate 700 delivery kitchens over the next five years across the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom." Burger King, meanwhile, is piloting their first ghost kitchen efforts with the help of UK-based delivery service FoodStars. Down in Nashville, fast-food powerhouse Chik-Fil-a is preparing to expand their reach with the launch of a subsidiary wings outfit later this year.
With a $43.1 Billion dollar global market valuation in 2019 and a $71.4 Billion dollar market value projected by the year 2027, the ghost kitchen revolution is already well on its way to redefining the retail food experience. Add to that pandemic conditions, and you have yourself a recipe for a novel restaurant landscape characterized by decentralized players and niche menu offerings.
While major chains and high profile entities are flooding the landscape with an outpouring of funds and resources, you may be wondering how will mom-and-pop restaurants will fare. Will these local shops, whose comparatively small resource pool is heavily depleted by brick-and-mortar operating expenses, join this revolution, led by cloud-powered industry behemoths?
At this early of a stage, that question's answer remains to be seen. That said, there does seem to be a new and exciting avenue for small chain growth with the help of ghost kitchens. The comparatively low cost to entry has enabled smaller players like California's own Mendocino Farm's to stay afloat during the pandemic and expand their reach in a challenging real estate environment.
In the meantime, we here at MealMe strive to help small restaurants servicing their communities independently to reach the same, expansive user base that major meal delivery services rely upon. As ghost kitchens grow, we are doing our best to reduce the friction for smaller players with in-house delivery or pickup offerings to enter the landscape.
The market is a fascinating and rapidly evolving one. The momentum of ghost kitchen adoption is exciting, but there is much that remains to be seen - a good indication that it probably won't be ghosting us anytime soon.