The NYT has an article today about "virtual restaurants," which are restaurants that only sell food through deliveries; they don't offer carry-out or eat-in options. It's a natural development in the Uber Eats era. The NYT article is paywall blocked, so here's a free article from elsewhere that explores the concept:
This leaves virtual restaurants. Sandland prefers this term over "ghost kitchen" or "cloud kitchen" because, much like digitally-native brands like Bonobos and Warby Parker, a virtual kitchen still builds a relationship with its customers; it just does so virtually. Over time, she believes, these digital relationships with customers will become more common for restaurants, as they will enable rapid innovation cycles and the ability to build totally new brands and menus and test them out on customers without any capital expenditures.At the same time, companies can take their existing brands and put them in much more "capital-efficient" locations—such as those "virtual restaurants" offered by Kitchen United.
When we combine this with robot chefs, we get a model in which companies like "Kitchen United" offers full-service for rent kitchens, including all cooking machines and labor. The costs of running a delivery-only restaurant will drop once entrepreneurs only have to come up with meal recipes and to program robot chefs to make them. The result? More people dabbling in the restaurant business and at lower financial risk.
And since robot chefs would be able to make unlimited varieties of meals (the only limitation would be the ingredients available in the kitchen), customers will be able to order highly personalized meals and won't be restricted to what's on a particular menu. For example, let's say I get the best hamburger I've ever eaten in my life delivered from a ghost kitchen. A few months later, the hamburger business that was renting that ghost kitchen goes bankrupt. As part of the business liquidation, I, the customer, can buy the hamburger recipe and store it in a personal food profile. At any point in the future, I can have robot chefs at other ghost restaurants make that exact hamburger for me and have it delivered to my house.
This creates an even more atomized business model in which people can sell personal recipes for individual meals. They would be sold online in something like an app market, and they could be rated by "users." (Piracy would inevitably arise alongside it)
Now, pair this with AI. Let's say you've built up a digital "meal account" containing recipes for hundreds of meals that you like. Your personal assistant AI is able to analyze them and to determine what your taste preferences are, and to recommend new meal combinations that you will probably enjoy. You can order these from any ghost kitchen as well, and at low cost. Every day becomes a new culinary adventure.
The key difference in the business model is that you will no longer be limited by the menu options of local restaurants, as you are today. The local ghost kitchen with robot chefs could make tens of thousands of different types of meals with equal ease. You could order genuine Mexican tacos with a side of sushi.
This vision of the future actually rests on other, long-running trends:
-Increased product customization over time
-Increased diversity of available foods over time