PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The idea of a Ghost Kitchen — a restaurant without a storefront operating out of a space and mainly focusing on delivery — isn’t new. They popped-up a lot throughout the pandemic, but customers may want to take a closer look at where that food is coming from.
When scrolling through delivery apps like Grubhub or DoorDash, people may notice a lot of restaurants they’ve never heard of. It turns out there’s a new practice of ghost kitchens hosting multiple virtual restaurants — all serving the same exact thing. Reports say their goal is to increase the chances of users ordering from them.
Kurt Huffman owns ChefStable in Portland, which runs the back end of things for restaurants, so the chefs can focus on cooking. Huffman works with popular spots such as Grassa and Ox.
He says he understands the concept from a business perspective, but also said it feels deceptive to some degree and flies in the face of what Portland’s food scene is really known for.
“I do feel like in a community like Portland where I really feel like the city identifies with its food scene,” said Huffman, adding “so I think in the city like Portland, concepts that completely tear apart that relationship I think people would be surprised to find out more about that.”
At the start of the pandemic, Huffman worked with a handful of different concepts that would operate out of ghost kitchens, but that ended when restaurants were able to open once again.
Grubhub and DoorDash told KOIN 6 in a statement these virtual kitchens are a way for operators to cut down on their costs.
Uber Eats said in 2019, they had around 3000 virtual kitchens. They now have tens of thousands, but added most of their kitchens are brick and mortar.
Full statements from Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats can be read below.
“Virtual concepts are marketed the same way brick-and-mortar restaurants are on Grubhub, meaning diners won’t know the difference. These concepts allow restaurant owners to create new revenue streams, attract new diners and increase restaurant exposure without adding overhead.
When it comes to marketing on our platform, restaurants are able to decide how much visibility they want with diners and are able to choose a marketing fee that best fits their goals. Restaurants, whether they are a virtual restaurant, enterprise or independent, can also run promos and rewards to encourage diners to order from them.“
“The restaurant industry continues to foster innovation, as there isn’t a one size fits all approach for operators. Delivery-forward kitchens are a valuable, cost-effective option for restaurants looking to grow their business, expand their geographic footprint, and reach more customers – without committing to an expensive brick and mortar.”
“As online food delivery has become a bigger and bigger part of the way consumers eat, Uber Eats is always looking for ways to help restaurants to discover new ways to reach customers
Starting in 2017, Uber Eats began evolving its business model from a platform that primarily aggregates existing brick & mortar restaurants to one that empowers restaurants to grow their business with Uber technology & data insights that can meaningfully improve selection
We began experimenting with helping restaurants develop virtual/delivery-only brands in 2017. By 2019 we had over 3,000 VRs listed on Eats in the US.
There are now tens of thousands of virtual restaurant storefronts on Uber Eats in the U.S. The vast majority operate out of existing brick and mortar restaurants.
Uber does not own/operate any ghost kitchens.
We do work with lots of merchants who do operate from ghost kitchens.”