On Your Side: 'Ghost kitchen' restaurant trend
Next time you order from a new eatery or pop-up kitchen on your food delivery app, you might actually end up eating something from another restaurant — like Denny's, TGI Fridays or even Chuck E. Cheese.
The late-night munchies led Ryan Benson to order delivery from an eatery called "The Meltdown." He enjoyed it so much, he asked his partner to look it up so they could visit in person.
"He Googled it and couldn't find anything," said Benson, who works as a social media manager. "And I thought 'Oh no! I think it's a ghost kitchen.'"
Benson was right. "The Meltdown", with its ooey-gooey cheesy sandwiches with catchy names like "The Giddy Up" and "Hot Mess Melt," were actually from Benson's neighborhood Denny's, prepared in the same kitchen as dishes like the Original Grand Slam.
Benson was caught so off-guard, he tweeted about it.
"Just found out I've been ordering Denny's thinking it was a gourmet grilled cheese place don't text," Benson wrote.
His tweet went viral, with even Denny's retweeting him.
Several big chain restaurants operate "ghost kitchens." TGI Fridays has Conviction Chicken; IHOP has Thrilled Cheese; Applebee's has Cosmic Wings. Even Chuck E. Cheese created its own ghost kitchen, Pasqually's Pizza.
"I think Denny's has an understanding of who its existing audience is," said Farley Elliott, a senior editor with Eater L.A. "They think a younger audience with money to spend is delivery app capable... If they rebrand, and make you think it's an entirely new business then they're more likely to get you as a customer."
When asked if this practice was deceptive, Elliott said at the end of the day the consumer is responsible for finding out where their food is coming from.
"It can be [deceptive]. Ultimately, the consumer has the obligation to know where they're ordering from," said Elliott.
"I can't tell if I am in the misinformation camp or the that's really smart camp," said Benson.
Benson said he has not ordered from The Meltdown since learning it was really Denny's.
The cost of a Brisket Melt from Denny's is $16.69 whereas the "Giddy Up Melt," which is the same sandwich, is $18.72.
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