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With Virtual ‘Ghost’ Kitchens On The Rise, What’s The Potential For Abuse?




The executive sous chef  prepares dinners for delivery and curbside pickup in the kitchen with a reduced staff.
The executive sous chef prepares dinners for delivery and curbside pickup in the kitchen with a reduced staff.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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Virtual kitchens, also known as ghost kitchens, have become a booming economy across Los Angeles and other parts of the country. The coronavirus pandemic has played a major role because of an increased demand for food delivery services. 

Here’s the ghost kitchen concept: The kitchen, often located in an empty warehouse of sorts, operates without a dining room and usually relies solely on the delivery model. Established restaurants have jumped at the chance to salvage what’s left of their business thanks to pandemic closures, turning to the ghost kitchen model. But there are several different ways a ghost kitchen can operate, and that’s what concerns some restaurant worker advocates. Some worry that those running the kitchens can gloss over the rules and regulations since it’s difficult to know how the kitchens are operating. And some say the model gives consumers the illusion of choice, when in reality it’s doing the opposite. Consumers often don’t know that they’re even ordering their food from a ghost kitchen.

According to the LA Times, projections in 2018 (pre-pandemic) saw the food delivery market growing by more than 13 percent annually. So the evolution of ghost kitchens has the potential to make a long-lasting mark on the way people eat. Today on AirTalk, we discuss the concept of virtual kitchens and what it means for consumers and workers. Do you have thoughts or questions? Do you work with a ghost kitchen? We want to hear from you. Join the conversation by calling 866-893-5722. 

Guests:

Atul Sood, chief business officer of Kitchen United, a virtual kitchen business with operations in several states including one in Pasadena

Sekou Siby, president and CEO of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a national not-for-profit organization with offices in Los Angeles and the Bay area that focuses on improving wages and working conditions for restaurant workers; he tweets @SEKOUSIBY5

Matt Newberg, founder of HNGRY, a media platform that examines the impact technology has on the way we eat, he’s been following the ghost kitchen economy and produced a documentary last year looking at the model; he tweets @thenewb