How Independent Restaurant groups like Chefstable created their own Ghost Kitchens.
ChefStable, Kurt Huffman’s powerhouse restaurant group in Portland, Oregon, was hit hard when the pandemic happened. With 16 concepts and a catering company, they didn’t have time to waste. They realized they had the catering commissary kitchen space decked out with all the bells and whistles – and motivated chefs who wanted to keep working. The conception of ChefStable Kitchen Collective came to be, a delivery-only ghost kitchen which they’ve called a “virtual food hall.”
ChefStable is taking the idea of ghost kitchens while ensuring the quality of the product is up to par with what customers are used to from their establishments. This is just the lifeline businesses could use to stay afloat. One of the main issues folks have with these virtual restaurants is the lack of trust in the brand. Does the consumer have the confidence that the chefs are using fresh, quality ingredients? Or will the product arrive as advertised?
Portlanders already know what to expect from a ChefStable restaurant – the food will be delicious, aesthetically pleasing, using ingredients sourced from local purveyors and passionately crafted by talented chefs. The brand recognition is on their side already and worthy of a click on Postmates or Caviar. While these delivery commission fees could put an individual restaurant in the red, having multiple concepts band together under one collective or commissary kitchen could be just the ticket to cut overhead costs and make a profit.
Restaurants groups have the ability to generate vital take-out income by gaining exposure to customers these third-party apps can provide. If used properly, these big tech companies can help small businesses, instead of competing against them. When given the option, would you order a cheeseburger from a fast-food chain or would you rather order a rustic house-smoked pulled pork sandwich from a renowned chef?
Collaborating with other chefs who are committed to innovation and the progress of the industry is a steadfast way to ensure that independent restaurants make it to the other side of this pandemic. Sharing kitchen spaces is a cost-effective way to continue business when keeping expensive commercial spaces isn’t an option. In Chicago, the Marz Brewery has set up a residency for pop-ups from chefs to experiment with their concepts. Zuul Kitchens in New York City has created a facility where ten landmark restaurants can rent space offering their greatest hits for delivery or pick-up. Chef Franklin Becker is opening up three concepts in the Zuul Kitchens space – a Portuguese grilled chicken spot, Peking duck or chicken shawarma at Universal Tacos, and an Israeli focused outpost of Philadelphia’s Shai.
The possibilities are endless when we all work together. Independent restaurants don’t have to compromise their recipes or concepts when offering take-out. There will need to be a little trial and error, but this is a low-cost option to gain insight on what customers are ordering, what will keep them coming back, and what experiments to expand on when it comes time to open our dining rooms again.