October 7, 2021
As a result of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies needed to re-evaluate their enterprise fashions, and restaurant house owners had been no exception. Whereas it could appear to be a Halloween season gimmick, ghost kitchens existed as companies previous to the pandemic however not too long ago grew to become a necessity for these eating places that hoped to proceed working as soon as in-person eating was curtailed.
Ghost kitchens, additionally known as cloud or digital kitchens, usually refer to areas which are geared up to arrange meals for a number of delivery-only eating places. This weblog describes this idea, taking a deeper dive into one motion planners can take in the course of the prolonged pandemic, which was the topic of the MRSC weblog Six Suggested Actions for Planners during the Extended COVID-19 Pandemic earlier this 12 months.
What Is a Ghost Kitchen?
In some ways, ghost kitchens mirror customary business kitchens, as they embody the identical varieties of gear used for meals preparation. Nonetheless, they’re completely different than most business kitchens in that they sometimes don’t supply dine-in providers and solely fulfill on-line orders, generally serving to conventional, dine-in institutions meet rising demand, notably in the course of the pandemic.
Many eating places and startups have pursued this mannequin to extend effectivity and cut back lease and labor prices. Some ghost kitchens put together a number of varieties of meals for one enterprise, whereas others embody leases for a number of established or new eating places. Much like how Seattle residents will quickly be capable of entry this fried chicken sandwich, clients use third-party supply apps comparable to Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grubhub to entry and order meals ready at ghost kitchens.
Concerns for Native Governments
Many jurisdictions could, unknowingly, already embody ghost kitchens, and others can count on to see them popping up in space neighborhoods within the coming months and years. As with every rising subject, native governments have a job to play in assessing new ideas which will have an effect on their communities.
Definitions of kitchens that put together meals for service elsewhere can differ in each kitchen sort and necessities by state and jurisdiction. A metropolis or county zoning code could outline comparable makes use of, comparable to business kitchens and shared-use kitchens, however these makes use of could not embody ghost kitchens, which mix features of conventional business kitchens and delivery-only companies. One other comparable idea is commissary kitchens, which are sometimes related to cell meals distributors (i.e., meals vehicles). For instance, the Metropolis of Yakima defines a commissary as a longtime business kitchen the place cell meals distributors put together and retailer meals. This September 25, 2020 MRSC blog discusses small scale manufacturing, like commissary kitchens, and features a reference to the Seattle Commissary Kitchen, a Seattle-based firm with 4 places that host over 40 native meals producers.
If a jurisdiction’s code doesn’t handle ghost kitchens or an identical idea, it may create a particular definition that would come with a dependence on on-demand meals couriers (e.g., Uber Eats) and off-site consumption of ready meals.
As a result of their late working hours and larger variety of pick-up or supply automobiles than a standard restaurant, ghost kitchens could also be most acceptable sited in business or mild industrial areas alongside transportation corridors. Some are situated in procuring facilities, as these websites usually embody appropriate, underutilized area. As a part of a pilot program, Miami, Florida doesn’t enable “app-based meal manufacturing” in its central enterprise district.
Essentially the most acceptable places for ghost kitchens in a given group, nevertheless, will depend upon shopper demand, whether or not the restaurant trade helps this idea, and different components associated to the native context.
Meals Security Rules
Meals institutions comparable to ghost kitchens are topic to state and native meals security rules. The newest Washington State Retail Food Code: Chapter 246-215 contains new sections on cell meals unit commissary utilization and exemption.
In King County, all meals institutions should function out of an accepted facility situated within the county and a commissary/shared kitchen agreement is required from the county well being division if distributors are usually not the proprietor of the commissary or if they are going to be sharing kitchen services with different distributors. The settlement notes facility necessities comparable to provide storage, gear cleansing, meals preparation, and different servicing actions.
It’s necessary to notice that some established eating places might even see ghost kitchens as unwelcomed competitors, together with these eating places which have continued to function of their present areas all through the pandemic.
Conversions of normal dine-in eating places to ghost kitchens with delivery-only choices may impression the street-level vibrancy of a walkable, mixed-use district, like historic downtowns. Previous to creating any rules associated to this use, communities ought to have interaction in conversations with the general public, together with restaurateurs.
A separate however associated subject contains points related to third-party supply providers. Some cities and states have adopted ordinances requiring supply corporations to acquire a restaurant’s permission previous to promoting the restaurant on their platforms. The California Fair Food Delivery Act prohibits supply corporations from promoting native eating places on their platforms and Seattle and Bellingham not too long ago handed ordinances with comparable provisions. These ordinances usually stem from restaurant complaints about this follow, which can end in elevated kitchen visitors or unanticipated vendor charges. Some cities, like New York City, have additionally adopted laws associated to minimal pay and dealing situations for workers of meals supply providers.
To the diploma that customers’ meals supply habits will proceed after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, ghost kitchens are a technology-driven initiative that might doubtlessly encounter a lift as eating places seek for different supply fashions to satisfy rising shopper demand.
MRSC is a non-public nonprofit group serving native governments in Washington State. Eligible authorities companies in Washington State could use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get solutions to authorized, coverage, or monetary questions.