E&S Extra

Editorial Director Joe Carbonara provides insights and commentary on the state of the foodservice equipment and supplies marketplace.


Listen … You Smell Something?

Lately I’ve been watching some movies from the ’80s with my daughters. And luckily for us, the hit “Ghostbusters” has been almost omnipresent on cable. (No, I have not yet cut the cord.) This family-friendly movie is rife with one-liners that I can now toss around with the hope that my children might actually find me funny. (Not holding my breath on that one.)

But there’s one aspect of the movie that seems comparable to today’s foodservice industry. And, no, I am not talking about the movie’s Twinkie analogy. Instead, it’s the concept of ghost kitchens that comes to mind.

The Ghostbusters, for example, went off the beaten path to find a venue from which to operate their business. The same applies to many ghost kitchens. Indeed, when setting up shop today, ghost kitchen operators oftentimes don’t have to pay as close attention to the various attributes that used to help restaurateurs determine where to house their businesses. For example, many ghost kitchens function as delivery-only operations, which means consumer foot traffic does not play such a prominent role in space selection.

Instead, these operators can pick spaces that allow them to design and equip their businesses for maximum efficiency. What can play a prominent role in picking a space, though, is having enough parking for delivery vehicles, easy access for deliveries from suppliers and the actual physical infrastructure to support a foodservice business. The latter includes proper gas, electric, water and sewer capabilities to support a high-volume foodservice operation.

Like the Ghostbusters, today’s ghost kitchen operators continue to identify unmet needs in the marketplace, most notably consumers’ insatiable appetites for restaurant-quality food delivered to them whenever they want it and wherever they want it. Ghost kitchens also allow operators an avenue by which they can introduce or test new cuisines in various markets without compromising their core business. Take, for example, two ghost kitchen concepts launched by Chicago’s Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. The first concept features a menu that supports the Whole 30 diet while the second concept features recipes from Bon Appétit magazine.

While these concepts scratch consumers’ convenience cravings, they don’t really provide much in the way of entertainment, which is something most people enjoy. So that opens an entirely different opportunity for today’s operators: to pair enhanced food and drink offerings with top-notch entertainment. Indeed, today’s eatertainment concepts continue to take shape in countless ways. The term applies to anything from ballparks to live music venues with enhanced food options to concepts that pair arcades, virtual reality gaming, indoor driving ranges and even axe throwing. The modern theater looks nothing like it did in the past, with many operators now offering full-service dining and bar service at guests’ seats.

As Dr. Peter Venkman said in “Ghostbusters,” “Call it fate. Call it luck. Call it karma. I believe that everything happens for a reason.” And the reason behind the rise in popularity for ghost kitchens and eatertainment concepts is simple: The one trait shared by both of these seemingly different approaches is their ability to deliver value on the customer’s terms.