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Meet the ghost kitchen players

The field of commissary kitchens for restaurant delivery is getting crowded

Within the growing world of restaurant delivery, a new segment is emerging. As more restaurant operators move into virtual brands — menus available for delivery only — the operators of a unique delivery-focused style of shared commissary kitchen are racing to capture market share.

Ghost kitchens, as they have become known, are rentable kitchen spaces popping up across the country. They’re often anonymous, located in industrial areas or otherwise unattractive real estate spots with easy access for delivery drivers. They are designed to host multiple brands with a shared infrastructure. Typically there’s no dine-in, so no dining rooms or customer parking is necessary. But some have a consumer-facing aspect, allowing for takeout. Others also offer technology support and even end-to-end services.

And these ghost kitchens are being designed to scale, attracting venture capital to seed planned growth across the country. The food delivery industry is estimated to be about $35 billion, with tenfold growth expected over the next decade.

For restaurant operators, ghost kitchens offer the opportunity to expand existing brands into new delivery markets without a brick-and-mortar investment. Restaurants can also test new concepts, speed delivery times by moving closer to certain neighborhoods or streamline their own kitchens by moving their off-premise operations to a ghost facility.

The ghost kitchen space is getting increasingly crowded, with players like Kitchen United, CloudKitchens and Zuul Kitchens making headlines.

A subset within the ghost kitchen world is a growing number of delivery-only restaurant hubs, such as The Local Culinary in Miami, KitchenAF in Winter Park, Fla., and Family Style in Los Angeles. These are virtual food halls of sorts, operating multiple delivery-only brands out of one facility — but all the brands are developed in-house. These ghost kitchens tend not to be open to outside restaurant partners — although at least one, BytetoBite.Industries, has a foot in both worlds.

The language can be confusing, but the opportunities are clear: Restaurant operators are looking for ways to expand their revenue potential beyond their four walls without a brick-and-mortar investment. Ghost kitchens can help meet that need.

Here’s a look at nine of the leading ghost kitchen players operating currently. Expect to see more join the fray.

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