PHOENIX — They're sometimes called virtual kitchens, ghost kitchens, or virtual restaurants. They're real restaurants with actual menus, legitimate websites, and social media accounts.
But, there are no hostesses or waitstaff, no tables in the dining room, and no bar to order a drink. Instead, these restaurants are housed in 600-foot kitchens, sometimes larger, or housed inside another restaurant using the same kitchen and ingredients.
The menu is available for pickup, takeout, and delivery via the likes of Uber Eats, GrubHub, Postmates, and DoorDash.
In the Valley, a handful of these ghost kitchens have opened. Some before the pandemic and others during it, but amid the pandemic, some restaurant owners said it has helped to boost their to-go sales, especially while restaurants are limited to 50% capacity.
That includes Grimaldi's, Los Sombreros, and Ling and Louie's Asian Bar and Grill.
"Demand for to-go has really gone up quite a bit," said Eric Greenwald, president of Grimaldi's Pizzeria.
Grimaldi's recently opened Grimaldi's To-Go at Kitchen United Mix, a multi-kitchen conglomerate in Scottsdale.
In addition to Grimaldi's, Kitchen Kitchen United Mix is also home to White Castle, Cold Stone Creamery, The Counter, Baja Fresh, Mr. Mesquite, Teji's Indian Restaurant, and Island Loco.
"It’s our staff. The full menu is there. We have our award-winning pizza, calzones, salads, and all our house-made desserts," said Greenwald.
Over at Ling and Louie's, the team recently launched Ghost Street Asian Taquieria.
"When we look that at we’re only at 50% capacity and we do a really good takeout with the Ling & Louie’s brand…we really felt the only way to continue to expand our sales was to offer more takeout but in a different direction," said Jon Banquil, president of Ling & Louie’s Asian Bar and Grill.
The menu at Ghost Street has Asian-inspired Mexican dishes, including wok-charred street corn, asian guacamole, a carne asada roll, and a dozen street tacos.
"We already have killer tacos…it’s a natural progression to take some of those ideas, put some new twists, and offer a smaller menu just for takeout," he said.
Same with Los Sombreros. The Mexican concept opened a virtual kitchen, called Carnitas Way, which offers burritos, something Los Sombreros does not have on its menu.
"Let’s give guests what they want. People love burritos," said Kurt Riske, co-owner of Los Sombreros, Carnitas Way, and Jerry's Restaurants. At some locations, all three concepts are run out of the same kitchen.
"You are there anyway running once concept. With COVID, sales are softer for more people, so you can get another concept, same ingredients, somewhat for the most part, we added some sauces from scratch. You can generate more revenue, and that new brand, as people hear about it, you can also cross-market."
Restauranteur Sam Fox, who founded Fox Restaurant Concepts, recently opened Fly Bye, a takeout-only Detroit-style pizza concept, at Culinary Dropout at The Yard, located off 7th Street in Phoenix.
While these takeout-only concepts are not new, some believe that some cities and towns will see more of them.
To order from or view the menus at the concepts above, here are the links: