Grubhub is launching its own delivery-only virtual restaurant, marking a new angle of entry for the Chicago-based company into the pandemic-fueled world of ghost kitchens.
Virtual restaurants—also called ghost kitchens—operate without dining rooms, reaching customers via online ordering and delivery services. Some provide kitchens to dozens of restaurants under one roof. Others operate out of established restaurants.
The pandemic facilitated a boom in such concepts as people grew more comfortable ordering food online, and experts think they might be here to stay. Chicago got 700 new virtual restaurant brands in 2021, compared with only 350 brick-and-mortar ones, according to market research firm Datassential. Chicago-based sandwich chain Potbelly announced its entry into virtual kitchens as a way to spur its ambitious growth plan. Ultimately, the explosion of virtual kitchens is one of the many ways in which COVID-19 has reshaped the dining scene.
Until now, Grubhub was the facilitator of virtual kitchens, the connector between the restaurant making the food and the person ordering it. The food ordering platform created its own virtual restaurant brand to help give restaurants additional ways to make money, said Marnie Boyer, VP of restaurant acquisition at Grubhub.
“This is really a low-risk way for restaurants to get involved and have multiple revenue streams and attract new customers,” she said. “They don’t have to do that with any additional cost, and they don’t have to hire a ton more staff.”
Grubhub’s virtual restaurant is called MasterChef Table and will feature recipes from winners of the show "MasterChef" on Fox. Three winners from different seasons created a total of 11 dishes that will be sold through the virtual restaurant. Diners in 20 cities, including Chicago, Boston, New York and Los Angeles, can get on Grubhub’s app and order the food.