Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Ghost Kitchens Coming to a Mall Near You

by Linda Moss Costar News
Retail developer Simon Property Group, international hotelier Accor and hospitality firm SBE Entertainment Group are joining together to open so-called ghost kitchens at 200 locations, including vacant space at shopping malls, by the end of 2021.

The three companies have launched Creating Culinary Communities, or C3, which SBE described Monday as a new "way to approach food halls, ghost kitchens and mobile delivery." A ghost kitchen is a broad term that can encompass professional kitchen space for businesses that don’t have brick-and-mortar restaurant locations and only deliver or operate food trucks, as well as commissary space that national chains take to help fill their delivery orders or to prepare orders for their smaller eateries.

C3 will be bringing consumers food "from phone-to-table in under 30 minutes and for under $30 dollars," Sam Nazarian, SBE's founder and CEO, said in a statement.

"I view C3 as the Netflix-equivalent of food and beverage as we focus on constantly creating culinary content that can be delivered to consumers via non-traditional distribution channels," he said. "C3 will be the first entity to bring single operator, multi-branded solutions to food halls, ghost kitchens and mobile delivery."

C3 has started construction of its first major restaurant, Citizens, which is scheduled to have a ghost kitchen and open at Manhattan West, the 7 million-square-foot project that Brookfield Properties is developing in the Hudson Yards district on New York City’s West Side, according to SBE. The 40,000-square-foot restaurant, by award-winning interior designer David Rockwell, will have two full-service restaurants, multiple bars and a fast-casual market hall.

Citizens will also have a 5,000-square-foot ghost kitchen, one of the largest in New York, which will serve customers both at the food hall as well as through delivery, according to SBE. The Miami-based firm said "through the growing network of ghost kitchens, C3 will take a major step in reimagining the concept of food delivery."

In part, ghost kitchens provide a new use for vacant space at sites such as malls, which have seen vacancies because of the demise and bankruptcy filings of a number of national retail chains. The commissary kitchens also provide businesses a way to offer food for delivery, an increasingly popular choice for consumers, without the expense of opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant or over-burdening such locations.

There are other players in the ghost kitchen arena, including CloudKitchen, a company led by former Uber Technologies CEO Travis Kalanick, and Kitchen United, which is backed by RXR Realty and GV, formerly Google Ventures. C3 has signed four leases with CloudKitchen for ghost kitchens, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Officials at SBE and Simon declined to comment. Accor and CloudKitchen did not return requests for more information.

But in his statement, Nazarian called C3 and Indianapolis-based Simon a perfect match because of the mall owner’s "global real estate platform" and "continued commitment to rethinking consumer experiences." And Accor’s part in the ghost kitchens "will allow C3 to rethink the use of hotel real estate to play a significant role in the world of delivery, revolutionizing the in-room dining experience and, in turn, growing the delivery footprint of our C3 brands," according to Nazarian.

C3 has ghost kitchens slated for the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania, Lenox Square in Atlanta and the Sanderson London hotel, according to the Journal.

"Our unrivaled portfolio of iconic retail, dining and entertainment destinations generates billions of visits each year and provide an ideal platform to re-imagine dining and culinary experiences that meet the evolving tastes of our customers," Simon CEO David Simon said in a statement. "C3 is another example of Simon partnering with dynamic, best-in-class brands to build the next generation of experiential destinations."

C3 has four chefs on its roster, namely Dani Garcia, Masaharu Morimoto, Dario Cecchini and SBE Chief Culinary Officer Martin Heierling. Garcia, as a three-star Michelin chef, will launch his Mediterranean tapas-style concept across the C3 ghost kitchen platform.

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