"Ghost Kitchens" on the rise

Fat Noodle uses innovative business model to survive pandemic
Posted at 10:53 AM, Feb 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 12:18:54-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A local restaurant owner opened a “Ghost Kitchen” to help keep his doors open as southern Arizona businesses try to rebound from the pandemic.

Ghost Kitchens are on the rise and with the economy taking a hit from the pandemic, the trend is taking the U.S. by storm.

The innovative business model is paying off for owners who basically create spin off menus to draw in more customers. Ramon Gonzales owns Fat Noodle at 811 East Wetmore, he recently opened his first ghost kitchen called “Rae’s Classic Burgers Fries and Pies. The idea for Rae’s started simmering in 2019, but the impact of COVID quickly brought it to a full boil.

According to the National Restaurant Association, the movement is helping restaurant owners stay afloat.

But what is a ghost kitchen and how does it work?

“It’s still really hard, I mean it’s helped a little bit. A ghost kitchen basically is a restaurant inside of a restaurant. They’re also known as virtual restaurants, which is a restaurant designed off of similar items to yours,” Gonzalez said.

Owners can rent a space only used for food preparation that’s made for take-out and delivery orders only.

The goal is to make the sales without paying for an entire restaurant and staff. Or like Gonzalez you can simply add a new takeout menu to a restaurant that’s already standing and use the same strategy.

In some instances, the space can be shared by other chefs throughout the day. Ghost kitchens are also known as dark, virtual and cloud kitchens.

"You make up a new menu and sell it specifically online, to go and through food delivery apps. That’s the idea, you can keep it simple, so you don’t have to add labor costs, extra food costs and it gives people more options out of one restaurant. It’s been a big hit the burgers I think its nostalgic for people you know classic hamburger stand,” Gonzalez said.

The National Restaurant Association says at least 8 million restaurant employees were laid off or furloughed since the start of the pandemic. Four in ten restaurants across the country were also forced to shut down.

Right now, experts say there are at least 1,500 ghost kitchens in the United States and that’s expected to grow dramatically by 2030.

Meanwhile, Gonzales is hoping to expand his ghost kitchen in the future.

“We actually might transition into a dual restaurant instead just doing it online just have people sit in for both restaurants kind of change things up that way,” Gonzalez said.