The New Yorker June 28, 2020: Our Ghost Kitchen Future


There is something utopian about Reef’s project, which inspires visions of greener, less congested, more accessible cities, in which delivery fleets zip around on electric bicycles and people congregate for cocktails in rooftop gardens, planted atop defunct parking structures. It is also a little sad. Decentralized, delivery-only restaurants—to say nothing of the WeWork-ification of restaurant kitchens—point to greater problems and complexities, like widening inequality, the high cost of living in coastal cities, the tenuous financial model of restaurants, and a culture in which, whether by preference or necessity, people prioritize convenience even in their leisure activities. None of the food-delivery companies are profitable: the endgame, as evidenced by Uber Eats’s recent bid to acquire Grubhub, is monopoly. People do not get into the restaurant business to leverage extra kitchen space. The opportunities Reef is pursuing are created by a certain degree of instability, or precariousness: underpaid gig-economy workers, prohibitive real-estate prices, desiccated public institutions and services, sclerotic local politics, a weary populace. The business model is contingent on trends—e-commerce, food delivery—that have contributed to the erosion of hyper-local, small-scale urban retail. Picking up packages locally is not the same as shopping locally, particularly not when the packages are from a global conglomerate like Amazon—to say nothing of the fact that local hubs for package pickup already exist across America, provided by the U.S. Postal Service. Consolidating local commerce and services under a private, venture-funded company without any community history or commitments also carries obvious risks.

This was a very interesting and comprehensive article. I had no idea that ghost kitchens existed. They seem like they will thrive in more urban settings.

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I’ve had takeout from several of my favorite places since the virus hit and the quality is nowhere as good as freshly served. They try to make up for it with huge portions but it always disappoints.

Alcohol to go is now available but the margaritas at our favorite place are terrible.

I read the article and will not be going to a Ghost Kitchen.