What you should know about those eateries you’ve never heard of on food delivery service websites.
Have you noticed that Morgantown has more restaurants than ever lately? Many of them don’t exist in real life and are on food delivery service lists only. What the blazes is going on here?
On Grubhub there’s:
- The Captain’s Boil, located at the same address as Ruby Tuesday;
- Fruit Stand Delivered and Sub Me Sideways at the same address as Sandwich U;
- Tre Pasta, located at the same address at Cairo2Go in Suncrest Towne Centre; and
- Soup 2 Go, located at the same address as Saigon Pho Kitchen.
And Grubhub is just one of at least four delivery companies operating in town. This phenomenon got a lot of attention over the weekend on social media with people wondering what the heck it’s all about.
The owner of Cairo2Go, Ahmed Abdelrehim, explained to us that Tre Pasta is a virtual restaurant, or “ghost kitchen.” The New York Times reported that ghost kitchens have become more popular since the pandemic started and refers to restaurants that delve into other types of food by opening digital eateries that only deliver.
“It’s going to be a huge part of the restaurant industry in the next five years,” Abdelrehim says. “The pandemic changed the way people look at restaurants, food, and eating out in general. There are huge investments pouring in on virtual kitchens nowadays. We’ve finally entered the food delivery era, and there is no turning back.”
Raj Sundaram, owner of Chaang Thai and Saigon Pho Kitchen, says ghost kitchens offer greater visibility to restaurant owners and create brand-new revenue streams.
“If I own a French restaurant and my customers come in to eat my French food, that’s what I have and that’s what they expect,” Sundaram says. “But what if I also cook Asian food very well? That might be confusing for my customers that come in, but I already have the kitchen space and it’s easy to create an Asian restaurant too at the same location. It lets me tap into a whole different group of customers that I wouldn’t have with minimal additional cost.”
George Tanios, owner of Sandwich U, got plenty of pushback over the weekend about his multiple ghost kitchens. He says it’s a concept that he first tried in May 2019. “Our location here has always been delivery-heavy, but everyone kinda put us in a box, saying we were just drunk food. But in reality, we really aren’t.” He says the alternate restaurant names allow him to appeal to different types of customers and to access more streams of revenue.
So while on the surface it might seem like a shady business practice aimed at luring unsuspecting customers, it’s actually catching on around the country and appears to be making headway in Morgantown, too.