Little by little, the restaurant industry has begun to creep back to life. At the low point of the pandemic-induced recession, more than half of the industry's 15 million employees were out of work, an astonishing statistic.
Roughly 110,000 eating and drinking establishments closed temporarily, some for good. We all hate to lose our neighborhood favorites. But maybe during the pandemic you also found a brand new pizza joint that takes orders and delivers via app. But what if that pizza place wasn't really a place at all? Ghost kitchens, where chefs prepare meals for delivery or takeout only, have flourished during the pandemic.
This week Major digs into ghost kitchens, pop-ups and other food-industry innovations that have arisen during this past year of COVID-19.
- Ghost kitchen concept: As many products as possible without higher costs: "The big takeaway about the idea of a ghost kitchen is how you are going to take your labor — which is the biggest cost to any restaurant — and utilize that labor to make as many different products as possible without increasing the labor?" said Michael Schlow, Boston-based chef and president of the Schlow Restaurant Group.
- Pop-up as personal venture: "I think this is a significant moment for everybody in every industry," Tim Ma, co-founder of Lucky Danger in Washington said. "Because people have taken the time in the rat race that is the restaurant industry to slow down and see what is what's important around here and what you really care about. That's why you see a lot of these pop ups, ghost kitchens or whatever you want to call it, are much more personal ventures."
- Carb comfort: "People want comfort right now and carbs are comfort," said Nycci Nellis, food journalist, radio host, and restaurant guru in Washington, D.C. "The consumer is not going to be spending a ton of money, and if the these chefs and restaurateurs are looking for alternative revenue streams, then they, too, are not going to be spending a lot of money because they're looking to make some money, so I think for right now, it's going to be stuff that travels easy.
This week's episode features:
- Aaron Anderson, president of Axiom Partners
- Mark Bittman, best-selling food author
- Tom Colicchio, former Top Chef judge and world-renowned chef
- Tim Ma, co-founder of Lucky Danger in Washington, DC
- Nycci Nellis, food journalist and radio host
- Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at the National Restaurant Association
- Michael Schlow, Boston-based chef and president of the Schlow Restaurant Group
- Rachel Sugar, New York Magazine staff writer