DELIVERY-ONLY GHOST RESTAURANTS ARE CHANGING TAKEOUT

  ©Crains

©Crains

Tech-backed delivery start-ups, in the form of UberEATS, AmazonGrubhub, Deliveroo, Foodora and other on-demand services, have long been changing the access to restaurants. Now, restaurant owners are tweaking the industry business model, moving away from brick-and-mortar dining rooms and trying their hand at delivery-only services, known as virtual restaurants. 

Green Summit Group is just one example of a growing wave of ghost restaurants that skip the storefront and bring food straight to the customer. Green Summit, a New York startup, is the food-hall of delivery options. Launched as a single delivery-only restaurant in 2013, the portfolio now includes four kitchens (three in New York City, one in Chicago) that are home to a total of 16 brands, which appear as different restaurants on delivery platforms, like Grubhub. Each of Green Summit Group’s enterprises has its own distinct logo and is delivered in its own branded bag. Unless you note the physical addresses and the menu similarities, you might not know they’re coming from the same place. 

While, it would be possible for the Green Summit brand to set up its own e-commerce websites and avoid the third-party fees, delivery services such as Deliveroo, Foodora or UberEats effectively serve as gatekeepers for any urban restaurant hoping to build a delivery business in 2017. In big cities like New York, Chicago, and Washington, most diners are more likely to open a delivery app on their phone than rummage through drawers for dog-eared delivery menus.

The ability to change is the beauty of the virtual restaurant. "If something does not work you can pivot on it a lot easier. It’s not like ‘oh, I’ve got to close the restaurant and redesign the whole thing.’ I’ve gone through that. It’s not easy and it’s expensive. This, you can literally do overnight,” says Fernando Saralegui, who runs a virtual restaurant in Austin as an opportunity to test his Cuban recipes in the market. As he creates catering orders, he can continue to get a feel for the market as he plots out his next step, which he says could be a food truck, pop-ups and perhaps, eventually, a permanent brick-and-mortar home.