A ghost restaurant (also known as a delivery-only restaurant or online-only restaurant) is a food service business that serves customers exclusively through online food delivery. Without the need to interact with customers directly on the premises, ghost restaurants can offset the high cost of a delivery system with cheaper real estate and operations.
Although restaurants typically earn more from customers who dine at the restaurant, due to the expense of operating a delivery service or the fees charged by third party delivery companies like Grubhub and Caviar, ghost restaurants have significantly lower overhead. Operating a dining room, with the real estate it requires, staff, amenities, insurance, and other expenses, is a significant cost. Even restaurants with considerable to-go business traditionally dedicate the majority of their space to seating. As visibility, curb appeal, foot traffic, and accessibility are not concerns, the kitchen can be housed in an inexpensive location that would not typically be considered desirable for a restaurant.
A single company may operate several ghost restaurants, and a single location's kitchen and staff can function as multiple branded restaurants. Without a brick-and-mortar location to renovate, companies can also try out new brands and cuisines with little effort, to appeal to changing tastes and trends.
Most of the restaurants utilize existing delivery services. For example, Green Summit, which owns several ghost restaurants in New York City and partners with Grubhub. Some companies incorporate their own delivery system into the business model, like the New York-based company Maple. Maple, which is backed by restaurateur David Chang, is able to orient its business around productivity in terms of meals per hour per kitchen — a metric more typical of fast food restaurants.
Several 2015 news articles found some "ghost restaurants" operated as unregulated, unlicensed standalone entities or as fronts for restaurants that might or might not have health code violations.
- Chamlee, Virginia (September 30, 2016). "Are Virtual Restaurants Dining's Next Hot Trend?". Easter.
- Ungerleider, Neal (January 20, 2017). "Hold The Storefront: How Delivery-Only "Ghost" Restaurants Are Changing Takeout". Fast Company.
- Eisenpress, Cara (February 21, 2016). "Behold 'ghost restaurants': Order online, but don't try to show up for dinner". Crain's.
- Kessler, Sarah (March 21, 2016). "How Maple Built An Insanely Efficient, Chipotle-Crushing Food Delivery Machine". Fast Company.
- Thompson, Elise Thompson. "Have You Missed Starry Kitchen's Balls? Us Too. Uber Eats is Here to Save Us All!". The LA Beat. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
- Glorioso, Chris & Givens, Ann & Stulberger, Evan (November 11, 2015). "LOCALI-Team: Restaurants Use False Identities on Food Delivery Websites". NBC News. New York.
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