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US Foods Offers All-in-One Ghost Kitchen Solution

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Restaurants looking to open ghost kitchens can now get help doing so from the foodservice distributor US Foods.

The company is launching US Foods Ghost Kitchens, a program designed to guide restaurant operators when opening their own business.

With the addition of this program, US Foods customers now have access to exclusive resources developed to streamline the process of starting a ghost kitchen, including proprietary technology to help identify menu opportunities, a detailed playbook to guide decision making, dedicated marketing support, webinars, and one-on-one consultations with US Foods specialists.

“The Ghost Kitchens program was developed in response to growing interest among our customers, but we’ve also been tracking the trend, and ghost kitchens are projected to reach a $1 trillion global market by 2030, making them an attractive concept for operators even after dine-in restrictions are lifted,” said Jim Osborne, SVP of customer strategy and innovation at US Foods. “We also know ghost kitchens are a departure from the traditional brick-and-mortar format, so some independent operators need help to jumpstart a new venture, which is why our program takes out all the guesswork.”

Osborne noted that since operators using the program often set up within their existing facilities, US Foods can help them open a ghost kitchen with minimal start-up costs in a matter of weeks, with the goal of higher profit margins and expanded customer reach.

Currently, with dine-in restrictions in place due to COVID-19, ghost kitchens are a viable option for restaurant operators. Seventy-five percent of restaurant operators now consider off-premise dining to be their best growth opportunity, according to The National Restaurant Association’s 2020 State of the Industry Report.

One chain that has been working on ghost kitchens for some time is Muscle Maker, Inc. Recently, the company opened its second ghost kitchen location in Chicago. The kitchen showcases menus from Muscle Maker Grill, Healthy Joe’s, and Muscle Maker Grill’s new Meal Plan concept—Meal Plan AF. Guests can order “healthier for you” dishes from any of the three concepts through third-party delivery platforms with the option for contactless delivery.

The delivery-only ghost kitchen is the second to open out of a 10-location agreement signed by the brand earlier this year. Locations three, four, and five are under construction and will also open in Chicago throughout the summer.

Muscle Maker was also selected as a target partner with REEF Technology and signed an agreement to launch two pilot kitchens this summer starting in Union City, NJ.

“After exploring REEF’s Neighborhood Kitchens, we knew right away that the model made sense for Muscle Maker Grill as a part of its non-traditional growth strategy,” said Michael Roper, CEO of Muscle Maker Grill. “Consumers and restaurant owners are increasingly embracing technological evolution and these delivery-only models continue to make our industry thrive; as indicated by the exponential growth delivery has represented in the Quick Service Restaurant segment over last year.”

REEF’s licensing model helps to lower the costs associated with opening or expanding in the restaurant business and allows food entrepreneurs, local restaurants, and national restaurant brands to open and expand quickly.

Meanwhile, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit also launched virtual kitchens as a new franchise opportunity. It will open its kitchens in Chicago, Houston, Orlando, and Providence, RI.

“Virtual kitchens are a unique franchising opportunity that gives us a new and innovative way to capitalize on consumer trends at a low cost,” said Laura Rea Dickey, CEO of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. “Delivery is a rapidly growing channel in our industry right now, and we believe it will continue to be a preference for guests post-pandemic.”

To learn more about ghost kitchens, click here for The Food Institute’s Ghost Kitchens and the Changing Nature of Restaurants webinar. (Must be an FI Professional Member to view)