Are haunted kitchens here to stay?



As dining facilities stagnate, so-called haunted kitchens (cooking facilities that only produce food for delivery with no eatery or customer-facing spaces) have become a mainstay in many cities. With the shift in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend is only set to accelerate as delivery remains the lifeblood of many restaurants.

The pandemic appears to have accelerated a trend that already existed. According to estimates, haunted kitchens were a $43.1 billion industry in 2019 and could create a $1 trillion global opportunity by 2030. Many large national and international restaurants are also participating. Wendy’s has announced plans to open 700 haunted kitchens in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom by 2025. Even TikTok is planning a delivery-only restaurant concept!

Despite all the fanfare, haunted kitchens are grappling with ever-increasing internal delivery workflow frictions, unsurprising given that kitchens designed to serve hundreds of in-house diners are now rushing to produce 1,000 to 3,000+ orders per day. While many of these companies have invested heavily in technology, with off-premise delivery solutions saturating the market, these high-output companies lack an on-premise automated delivery workflow.

Automation, it turns out, may be key to helping haunted kitchens, even smaller ones, survive and thrive in the post-pandemic reality.

Also: Chipotle tests a new tortilla chip robot (no, really!)

“New technologies, especially in emerging automation systems, typically start at large enterprises and make their way into SMB kitchens as part of new infrastructures,” said Haitham Al-Beik, CEO of Wings, a company working on last-mile delivery solutions. . “As costs continue to fall, the system will become more accessible and even more user-friendly. In addition, it will find its place in more than just kitchens as it will be used in many industries.”

I connected with Al-Beik to discuss logistical issues and technological solutions related to haunted kitchens. He and his team work on manufacturing private label automation systems for business technology service partners and suppliers. He thinks Ghost Kitchens is the new norm and a tantalizing market opportunity in 2022 and beyond.

“While transactions and delivery segments are already being digitized by omnichannel services, such as DoorDash and Uber Eats, the haunted kitchen market is next on the horizon for fulfillment and distribution. There are non-automated runners who sort, store, ship and transfer orders to couriers. ongoing digitization of the Ghost Kitchen is to automate the runner and storage operations that are currently labor driven.”

Of course, in a tight labor market, there is also a great incentive to find out how to increase efficiency, essentially doing more with less. Restaurants in particular are feeling the pressure, although haunted kitchens can have an advantage here. Pointing to repeatability, Al-Beik asks how haunted kitchens can now lead the way.

“Focus on removing non-value-added labor with workflows and relevant stations that are highly repeatable. The more you design a Ghost Kitchen with continuous systems with automation systems consisting of workflows and a relevant station, the better it flows from start to finish. It The goal is to create adaptable and intelligent systems that can effortlessly cope with external and uncertain global changes for a lean and mean machine.”

Ghost kitchens can do that better by eliminating the front-of-house focus. That simplifies the restaurant’s enormous logistical challenges to the extent that creating the perfect haunted kitchen is as much a technical challenge as it is a culinary or marketing challenge.


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