Ghost kitchens: Local restaurant owners trying new concepts to make ends meet

As the pandemic continues, more restaurants are looking to connect with customers in creative ways. A new restaurant trend is giving owners the chance to serve more people virtually. Restaurant owners are trying new concepts and menus without the expense of a brick and mortar.

Four weeks ago, Luke Shimp opened Kenwood Food and Beverage, a virtual food hall. It houses Chicken Republic, Venice Salads and Bowls, Shakee Shakee and Red Cow. It operates in part through a ghost kitchen, meaning the cooking team utilizes the Red Cow Uptown kitchen, which has been sitting vacant since the early months of the pandemic, to cook the food for the other restaurants.

"My idea was let’s make a virtual food hall, where it has multiple brands inside, but virtually, you order it online. And it’s all for delivery or takeout," Shimp said.

"We took this opportunity to create some new concepts and have them at hand, in case we lose additional seating in the future with the pandemic. If we have to scale back to 25% or takeout only, then we’d be able to keep on filling with these ghost kitchen concepts," he said.

The concept also allows more people to get their jobs back.

"On March 16, we had to furlough 400 people. So, the whole time I’ve been thinking how do we get people back to work, and so you’re constantly thinking that as an entrepreneur, and this was one way to do that and utilize that kitchen. Now we have up to 270 of our 400 individuals back working," Shimp said.

This type of business design is allowing Shimp to make ends meet.

"When a building is sitting there vacant and empty, you’re losing money every month, and it costs X amount of dollars just to have it sitting there. So now, we are looking at how much revenue can we bring in through the ghost kitchen, and at what point can we look to where we are losing less money being open with the ghost kitchen, than having it closed," Shimp added.

Shimp said he broke even, and he sees this as part of the future of restaurants.