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Food & beverage


Hotels will benefi t from ghost kitchens, as they any additional costs that usually accompany a restaurant.


What does this new culinary world look like in practice? One of the most striking shifts is the independence of C3 and its cousins. Apart from the physical cooking space – which obviously still belongs to Graduate – C3 is mostly left to its own devices. Operating its own range of brands (‘Umami Burger’ and ‘Sam’s Crispy Chicken’ are just two of the most popular), the New York company plans to cook across several Graduate properties. Beyond that, explains a C3 representative, its kitchen staff are ‘cross-trained’ across different brands, meaning that hotels don’t have to worry about securing the right talent. For its part, Butler Hospitality is similarly independent, boasting uniformed staff, automated ordering and dedicated “guest experience” teams.


continue to simplify things for hotels.” Richie Karaburun


To put it another way, hiring their kitchens out won’t leave hotels with much to do themselves – something Karaburun suggests suits them just fine. “Hotels benefit in the sense that they don’t have to worry about food costs, payroll cost, staffing for the back of the office, operational costs, insurance and permits,” he says. “That’s a big, big win for them.” That’s especially true given how widely many ghost kitchens spread their wings. Though Butler Hospitality focuses on room service, it’ll happily cook food in one kitchen then deliver it to guests at another property nearby. In other words, a hotel can even profit from food ordered at a rival. By a similar token, C3 offers its services to local residents, using its Graduate bases to rival Seamless, UberEats and other food delivery platforms. Considering that this is an industry expected to be lucrative by 2023, that’s surely a good strategy.


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As cheeky titles like ‘Krispy Rice’ imply, ghost kitchens are helping revitalise a sector long associated with more traditional cuisine. “I feel hotel ghost kitchens can fill a need – creating new, exciting, innovative concepts that hotel guests will enjoy,” says DeMicco. That’s true, he adds, even for arrivals who don’t necessarily want to eat at a hotel. As DeMicco continues: “If done well, ghost kitchens can add a positive buzz to a hotel.” C3’s representative makes a similar point. “Having a single full-service restaurant on-site is one thing, but adding another brand can generate $1m in additional revenue per year, and has the potential to reach new demographics as a secondary space.” C3’s partnership with Graduate is again instructive here. Apart from rustling up burgers and chicken for hotel guests, its ‘Graduate Food Hall’ concept encourages college students to grab lunch at Graduate properties in university towns. All told, the partners hope to reach 3.5 million kids from Virginia to California.


Oven ready


Now that vaccination campaigns are intensifying and hotels are buzzing once more, might the ghost kitchen bubble burst? Neither DeMicco nor Karaburun think that it will. “This is here to stay,” emphasises the NYU professor. “Ghost kitchens might evolve, but they’ll continue to simplify things for hotels.” This makes sense, given the financial downturn the hotel industry now has to drag itself out from. When even a giant like Hilton saw revenue tumble by around half in 2020, it makes sense that hotel owners and operators would hunt for ways to cut costs – with ghost kitchens a prime example. This is similarly reflected by the kinds of brands that are taking the plunge and outsourcing their F&B. Even major players – IHG and Marriott among them – are now following where Graduate led. More broadly, specialised companies are appearing to complement the gaggle of ghost companies in their midst. In New York, for example, ‘Kitch’ is a start-up that acts like a ‘kitchen matchmaker’ and connects hotel operators to chefs eager to rent out their space. With developments like that on the horizon, no wonder C3 is so optimistic about the future of their field. “More hotels will seek out this type of digital kitchen concept, while hotels in development will opt for digital kitchens over singular restaurant concepts,” the company’s representative says, adding that C3 is already in conversation with other potential clients too. We may not be returning to a world of Cape Cod oysters to mushroom velouté, but kitchens are still where the action is. ●


Hotel Management International / www.hmi-online.com


Volodymyr Goinyk/Shutterstock.com


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