- Inspire Brands, which owns Arby's, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic and Jimmy John's, is planning to launch ghost kitchens based on two names it trademarked in January: Alliance Kitchen and Inspire Kitchen, according to Restaurant Business.
- Both filings indicate that the trademarked names will be used for food delivery and delivery of food by restaurants and that the concepts will provide "restaurant services, namely providing ghost kitchens and commercial kitchens for use in the preparation of meals and beverages for consumption off premises."
- Inspire Brands told Restaurant Dive on Tuesday that it was not ready to comment on the trademarks.
So far, the ghost kitchen world has been largely developed by third-parties — like CloudKitchens, Kitopi, Uber Eats and Kitchen United — targeting small and midsize restaurants that are looking to grow their footprint and build brand awareness. The proposition makes sense for fledgling brands, since this format lowers overhead costs that a restaurant would otherwise have to shell out to launch a concept.
But as delivery demand grows, legacy brands are starting to explore ghost kitchen opportunities as well. Fellow multi-brand restaurant company Bloomin' Brands, which owns Outback Steakhouse, is experimenting with standalone kitchens to prepare takeout and delivery orders, according to the Los Angeles Times.
McDonald's opened its first ghost restaurant in London in November, for example, as part of a broader test of different restaurant formats. Chick-fil-A is testing storefront-free kitchens in Nashville and Louisville that focus on individual orders or catering orders that are delivered through DoorDash. Chick-fil-A has also partnered with Kitchen United and DoorDash Kitchens for shared commercial space. Other brands looking into these types of spaces include The Halal Guys and Sweetgreen.
It's unsurprising that established brands are seeing the streamlined, low-cost appeal of ghost kitchens. They offer a convenient way to enter new markets and test consumer receptiveness without making a major investment or suffering the embarrassment of shuttering a location that under performs. During a recent investor day, Wendy's CEO Abigail Pringle indicated that dark kitchens would be a major part of the brand's expansion strategy and that the brand planned to open two ghost kitchens by the end of 2019.
Though the promise of ghost kitchens is attractive, the endeavor is not without its challenges. Ensuring that food is prepared consistently across different locations and that the delivery time doesn't affect quality will be a high priority. The ghost kitchen will need to generate enough orders to cover its costs, too.