Would grocers benefit from ghost kitchens?
Bob Anderson, retired VP/GMM at Walmart
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer magazine.
Can you imagine a grocer with a large cluster of stores in a major metro like Los Angeles, Dallas or Chicago building their own ghost kitchen to service their own stores?
A ghost kitchen could centrally serve all stores, saving on cost, labor and time, while putting the hurt on fast-food chains.
Let’s be honest. The only in-store foods-to-go that ever did well were pizza, fried chicken and Chinese. Having food that sits in a steamer for hours and turns to mush on the hour-long ride home doesn’t cut it.
In one option, the ghost kitchen takes online orders and creates meal kits — just like you would be ordering at a restaurant. But in this case, what if those meals were then flash frozen to be used later?
They could be ordered, made and delivered to stores with a 24-hour advance window that would marry up with the customer’s normal weekly grocery shopping.
Option two would see orders placed between 6 a.m. and noon. These fresh, ready to heat-and-eat items would only need to be put in a microwave or in the oven for 30 minutes or less.
Both options could offer quality better than anything in the frozen or grab-and-go section.
The ghost kitchen could be staffed by the retailer’s own employees, or contracted out to companies that, say, make meals for restaurants or airlines.
These kitchens could also make single items in various sizes, from entrees to side dishes. Items could be displayed by type and serving size. To make the meal complete, you could add appetizers and desserts, as well as fresh items, such as salads, soups, fresh breads and rolls.
All of this sounds like a lot, and it is. But not if you can make it all in one place and ship it to many in a timely manner.
So, let’s take one more big step. Why not invite local restaurants and chains to join you in the ghost kitchen? Let them offer not only their menus, but help in preparing yours. Win-win?
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How would you weigh the pros and cons in grocers building or utilizing outside ghost kitchens to support to-go offerings? Do you see a better path to elevate the quality of grocer’s prepared food offerings?