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The Emergence of Ghost Kitchens and the Future of Restaurant Design

by Emily Langner

Meredith Sandland

On season 2, episode 14 of the Build Better podcast, Anastasia welcomed Meredith Sandland, co-author of the book, “Delivering the Digital Restaurant.” Previously, she served as the chief development officer at Taco Bell, and as the COO of Kitchen United.

Sandland has created and driven disruptive growth at both Fortune 100 and start-up companies, and has spent a decade navigating changing consumer demands and real estate environments for restaurants. She shared more about the recent shifts in consumer behavior, and how the emergence of ghost kitchens and other methods of food delivery are impacting the restaurant industry.

Sandland sited three major changes occurring in consumer behavior. The first is that the economics of eating at restaurants vs. eating at home have changed, and that food “away from home” continues to grow. Second, consumers’ tastes are changing and they are starting to demand better nutrition and greater diversity in their diets. Third, the new generation expects the convenience of quick, on-demand service.

In response, restaurants are adapting parking lots for curbside pickup and incorporating mobile ordering forms. Additionally, ghost kitchens have emerged as a cost-effective and efficient way to fulfill customer orders through off-site production. According to Sandland, ghost kitchens are restaurants that are optimized for off-premise consumption. They typically do not have a front of house or sit-down environment, and often have multiple restaurants operating out of them. They are designed to be compact and efficient in their use of space, and feature less electrical, gas and water consumption.

Sandland explained that her book, “Delivering the Digital Restaurant,” is designed to help restaurant operators and owners navigate the changes in the industry, and to help everyone migrate the changes successfully and come out on the other side better for it. She and co-author Carl Orsbourn interviewed restaurateurs, food industry veterans and start up entrepreneurs about the changes that are happening and what they see coming in the future.

She emphasized that this is an important topic for real estate owners, landlords, builders, developers, and city planners to understand. “As much as retail changed and you saw things like dark stores and micro-fulfillment centers and all those types of things come into the retail world where there had been big boxes, the same thing is going to be happening in restaurants, so understanding why these changes are happening and what’s likely to result and what it will look like, I think, is an important part of navigating through the change, Sandland said. “There’s a lot of stakeholders involved in making the physical built world enable all of these changes that are occurring.”

Listen to season 2, episode 14 now!

Emily Langner is editor at High-Profile Monthly.