Restaurant fare from so-called “ghost kitchens” is increasingly finding its way to Canadians’ dinner plates — including now in Alberta — with many consumers likely not even noticing the difference.
Toronto-based Jackpot Brandz opened its Edmonton location in January, a few weeks after setting up shop in Calgary.
Ghost kitchens, which are also known as virtual kitchens, offer menus exclusively online, often without a physical storefront. Typically, one kitchen prepares food for a range of restaurant brands.
“What happens is it allows us to be diverse without having to keep opening a separate business or separate brick and mortar location,” said Rishi Mittal, who is the area developer for Alberta.
Listed under individual brands, the company’s offerings include menus based around pierogis, poutines, as well as Greek, Arabic and vegetarian options.
The company uses apps such as Uber Eats and Skip the Dishes to advertise and deliver under 13 restaurant banners, which are only visible online.
There are more than 250 ghost kitchens operating on the Uber Eats platform in Canada, a spokesperson told Global News.
“In addition to creating new economic opportunities, this trend is also offering consumers more choice,” Uber Canada spokesperson Jean-Christophe de Le Rue wrote in an email on Friday. “This is especially true in predominantly residential areas where there hasn’t traditionally been a lot of food options.”
The business model is a good model for new businesses entering the restaurant industry, according to John Pracejus, who is director of the School of Retailing at the University of Alberta.
“It probably would just be a problem of choice overload, perhaps — particularly choice overload when they’re not real choices,” Pracejus said. “They’re not choices between one producer and another producer, they’re just sort of sub-brands out of one outlet.”
Jackpot Brandz plans to open in cities across North America, including 35 virtual kitchens in Alberta.
“We can’t eat digital food but we can still make use of the digital space, right?” Mittal said.