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S8 E10 – What are Ghost Kitchens and are they a terrible idea?

Ghost kitchens are professional kitchens set up for the purpose of creating delivery only meals! Today’s podcast hones in on this as a concept. Are they smart? Are they here to stay? Tune in to hear both sides of the argument!

Best soundbite“It’s not Domino’s Pizza. It’s Spaff’s Pizza. If that doesn’t make you want to order from me, I don’t know what will.” – Jamie Spafford

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  1. shachi181819

    In India (and now in some Indian-diaspora communities around the world) there has long been a “tiffin-wala” concept. It’s usually a home cook or a group of home cooks that make food for people, packaged up in stainless steel containers (“tiffins”). Bike messengers deliver the lunches to offices, and then come back around to pick up the empty containers. Also, in the US, there is a platform now called “Shef” which allows people to buy home-cooked food of different cuisines, which you usually order a night or two in advance, and you usually order several meals to last you a few days.

  2. BiasedBani

    Before listening to this, I thought ghost kitchens are those that don’t really cook and only heat and plate up something they get from their central kitchen(like chain restaurants). Haha, learned something new today, thanks!

  3. mary459612

    I know I’m late on this (my mom’s always said I’ll be late to my own funeral), but Jamie’s right. At least here in the USA. I’d NEVER trust a delivery place I hadn’t seen first. Even WITH seeing one it ended up closing due to multiple Health Dept violations. And this was a top known retail pizza place, but it Was a franchise. Ick!!! I will never order from a delivery service if I’m not totally familiar with the business first!

  4. Anita

    I’ve never ever heard of ghost kitchens. Well, it’s been a while since I last ordered 😀 As you pointed out, they sound good from a business standpoint. Of course, I don’t know anything about the costs associated with providing delivery from ghost kitchens but it does sound waaay less expensive than setting up your own kitchen for a regular restaurant from nothing. Couldn’t it be a great stepping-stone for enthusiastic newbies that don’t have enough capital to start something from zero? To move on and build something of value out of it? I will want to look into this concept a little further, I’m not entirely convinced yet that you cannot put passion into it and cultivate connection in the long run. But again, I know nothing so it was great listening to you and reading your comments.

  5. Simonheath8@gmail.com

    There is a ghost kitchen at the back of my flat on an commercial estate. They have three ‘brands’, two selling burgers, one selling general american takeaway food. The food is always good. I dont see the issue with them, its just the same as having a Chinese takeaway without a restaurant except they deliver. Its obviously less overhead for them to rent a commercial space.
    I saw a youtube vid of a guy who started a kitchen from his apartment and signed on with deliveroo. He did not have to have a food safety audit as the deliveroo business manager stated that as long as he had ticked the ‘awaiting inspection’ box on his business page they could deliver for him.

  6. Rtdugan04

    I have a ghost kitchen next to my apartment in NYC and I have tried a ton of new cuisines. Some folks have moved on to brick and mortar restaurants but others have not. And with high rents of NYC, it is good to see a place that allows folks to try without causing them so much debt.

  7. Porochaz

    I think for me, if I’m ordering takeaway I’m not overly bothered with it being from a ghost kitchen. Certainly these days you usually don’t have an option with the chains where you order from. For instance, I know that the Pizza Hut nearest me consistently burns or overcooks the pizzas and are generally awful and the ones a bit further out are better, however I am unable to order from these ones anyway. That said I try not to go for chain takeaways anyway. So if the choice is out of my hands anyway, then provided it’s passed the necessary regulations (which I would assume in the UK it would have to) then I’m fine with it. However it would be nice to know with a “might not be prepared on-site” and then evaluate my choice based on that.

    As a diner, I have had meals ruined by excessive delivery drivers, especially if they are consistently walking back and forth through the restaurant and if Im paying money to sit in their restaurant and give them business, I am going to be annoyed if I have to wait because someone at home is prioritised before me. In that way, I am happy that some of them would use a different kitchen to make their food. Certainly their is a local Italian that has a takeaway kitchen on the side of their main business and having had the same food sitting in as well as taking away, I’d say its similar.

    My problem would be as an earlier commenter stated, if these companies started opening their own ghost restaurants to compete, which I could see happening.

  8. Sophie-cat

    I live in Penrith in Cumbria, where there is no Deliveroo or Ubereats. I believe it has come to or is coming to Carlisle which is nearly 20 miles away. There are plenty of restaurants and takeaways only a couple of which deliver and one of those is Dominos. I think it is mostly a big city thing.

  9. cgfetherston

    If a ghost kitchen provides the same menu and the same standards as the restaurant it may well be a great idea because it will allow the restaurant kitchen to service the clients in the location without over stressing the kitchen with a large number of take out orders. The ghost kitchen may actually choose to restrict the menu to dishes that will hold up to the delay involved in delivery.

  10. Annie1962

    I was under the impression that ‘ghost’ kitchens meant hidden kitchens created by companies like Ubereats to undermine restaurants around the kitchen’s area
    ie that a building is occupied by various cooks/chefs making different cuisines under the one roof and the customer doesn’t realise that the food is cooked under such conditions.
    If I am wrong then I still feel that it ccan undermine the restaurant industry until a point of collapse.
    I like to eat out for different reasons than I like to eat in – when I dine out I like a nice restaurant, nice lighting nice decor, polite staff to create an ambience of relaxation and enjoyment. I certainly DON’T want to be interrupted by employees rushing in and out grabbing delivery orders and as you say.. not good in the extremes of temperature enduring a door being opened ad nauseum.
    I’d hate to see the restaurants having to close their doors due to the competition of these ghost kitchens. Jobs would be lost and chefs not able to create.
    Are these ghost kitchens subjective to council approval, health department checks etc? If not then that’s bloody dodgy and like I said, is unfair competition for legit businesses.
    Like Ben said, this ‘delivering meals to your home’ idn’t going to help our future generations learn about food in order to discern what is healthy, made well etc.. it’ll be food in containers dropped off for you to consume without much thought or appreciation of the process .
    I’ve deleted Menulog and Uber off my phone due to discovering the less than kosher methods the company uses to undermine genuine business owners. Shame on them

  11. brightside

    I briefly worked in the restaurant industry in my current city, and while (to my knowledge) ghost kitchens haven’t really taken off yet, we do have a lot of incubator kitchens. You guys alluded to incubator kitchens a few times in this discussion, but at least in my city, the concept is that a large warehouse-type building filled with individual industrial kitchens rents the kitchen space to people who have startup food businesses. Each incubator kitchen has a slightly different model, but that’s the basic concept.

    At least here, it’s extremely difficult, competitive, and expensive — and therefore risky — to open a new restaurant, bakery, or other food business, especially in the busiest parts of the city. Therefore, the only reasonable and feasible option for most people looking to open a new food business is to go through incubator kitchens. Most of the time, people in incubator kitchens tend to use the space to prep for farmers markets, popups, etc. It’s perhaps due to the food culture here, but in my experience and observation, the goal is almost always to “graduate from” the incubator kitchen and have a brick-and-mortar location, just like Jamie mentioned. Most of the time, incubator kitchens are used to prep food for farmers markets, popups, food trucks, etc. I’ve seen some new startup restaurants go through the “delivery only” model, but that’s always been temporary until the business becomes strong enough to afford a physical location. At the moment, although people definitely do order delivery and take-out a lot here, the culture still places a lot of importance on going to physical restaurants and socializing with friends and colleagues.

    That was all to say: Ghost kitchens aren’t popular here yet, but there’s no saying whether or not they might be in the next ~5 years. I personally would prefer brick-and-mortar restaurants just so that I can have the option of visiting in person, but I see and understand the appeal (especially on the business side) of having a ghost kitchen, so long as the food is of good quality.

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