Project 2021, part 15: Pandemic sees rise, normalization of ‘ghost kitchens’ in restaurant business

Project 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. Some of it, permanently.

Algenon Cash is convinced that’s the case with the restaurant industry.

“I really believe that part of this COVID – COVID-induced pivot, as I call it – I think it’s going to be permanent,” Cash said.

That part that he refers to is the preponderance of take-out, curbside and delivery service food — the stuff brought to you by services like DoorDash, Grub Hub and Uber Eats.

But something else that has been slowly growing, behind the scenes, is essential for that to happen: ghost kitchens.

A ghost kitchen is a professional kitchen facility that doesn’t have a dining room attached to it — it’s just a place to cook and prepare food for take-out or, more likely post-pandemic, delivery.

“So, before ghost kitchens were primarily used for just research and development – just to see if the market was going to accept the menu and like the food, that sort of thing. But now, because of COVID and also because of the maturity of a lot of our delivery systems, I think ghost kitchens have become almost a go-to concept,” Cash said.

He opened a restaurant called Zesto Burgers and Ice Cream in Winston-Salem and was just getting it to where he wanted it when the pandemic shut it (and pretty much everyone else) down.

But Cash has built a lot of relationships over the years, including a man named Fagg Nowlan who is the CEO of J&S Cafeteria in High Point. J&S is a large restaurant that, because of the pandemic, is running far below its capacity.

“This facility is almost 13,000 square feet,” Cash said. “The average restaurant is probably only 2,500 or 3,000 square feet. So, we’ve got way more space here – we’ve got at least 6,000 square feet in kitchen, storage and refrigeration, right now. So, our kitchen is actually three times the size of a normal restaurant. For us – what we’re looking at – is not just doing one concept, we want to develop multiple ghost kitchen concepts. You could have a seafood concept like Calabash Point, which is what we’re working on now. You could have a reincarnation of a Zesto but operating as a ghost kitchen.”

See more on how this is becoming a national trend – maybe with your favorite restaurant – in this edition of Project 2021.

Click here for part 20 of Project 2021
Click here for part 19 of Project 2021
Click here for part 18 of Project 2021
Click here for part 17 of Project 2021
Click here for part 16 of Project 2021
Click here for part 15 of Project 2021
Click here for part 14 of Project 2021

Click here for part 13 of Project 2021
Click here for part 12 of Project 2021
Click here for part 11 of Project 2021
Click here for part 10 of Project 2021
Click here for part nine of Project 2021
Click here for part eight of Project 2021
Click here for part seven of Project 2021
Click here for part six of Project 2021

Click here for part five of Project 2021
Click here for part four of Project 2021
Click here for part three of Project 2021
Click here for part two of Project 2021

Click here for part one of Project 2021

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