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Ghost kitchens could haunt the in-person dining experience if operators aren’t careful

restaurant dining room

I saw a news release the other day that had me thinking of my childhood watching Star Trek: The Next Generation.

If you’re not a trekkie, Captain Jean-Luc Picard asks the computer for “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot” and it magically appears, perfect to his specifications. Any number of dishes come right out of the replicator.

While we’re not quite there, the big picture idea of ghost kitchens is inching us closer. New food tech startup CloudChef has a proprietary “recipe record and playback technology,” that promises to “impeccably recreate” dishes from any chef, anywhere in the world, home-delivered.

According to a video demonstration, chefs themselves could not tell the difference between their own dishes, and those created by CloudChef.

The technology works by having the original recipe creator come in and prepare a dish. CloudChef uses sensors to monitor the process and “synthesize the recipe” into a machine-readable file.  

“This codifies the intuition of a chef and makes the recipe robust to ingredient location and variability,” according to a news release.

The recipes are then able to be “flawlessly recreated” in a CloudChef-enabled kitchen in a “co-biotic fashion where all cooking intelligence is software-automated.”

They’re promising being able to record and playback all types of recipes, from family heirlooms to something currently trending on TikTok.

Ok. Is this for real?

Because my experience with ghost kitchens to date haven’t exactly been thrilling, and the reality of a sketchy trailer cranking out dishes in a random parking lot just doesn’t do the restaurant experience justice.

I had the pleasure of having a mediocre experience at Buca di Beppo last weekend for my 9-year-old’s birthday as well. I say mediocre because the timing of our dishes was all completely off, with one person’s entrée arriving 10 minutes before several others, and a 25 minute wait for dessert.

It should be noted that we saw third party delivery drivers streaming in and out of the host station to pick up MrBeast Burger orders, as this location’s kitchen also is apparently a ghost kitchen for several other brands.

Was our poor dining in experience a coincidence? I don’t think so.

While I love the idea of being able to get my favorite dishes any time, anywhere, we don’t want to lose what makes foodservice exceptional: The experience.

Operators should be paying close attention to how implementing these new technologies and ideas affect their core business.

I went to Buca di Beppo for a wacky in-person birthday dining experience, with all the in-person bells and whistles that entails.


Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.