By Jim Flieler, VP of Sales Canada for Charlotte Products Ltd

After over a year of ordering out as we navigate indoor dining restrictions, we are now officially hard wired for convenience and safety when it comes to our delivery and takeout meals. This shift is changing the way restaurants operate, including a sharp rise in the ominously named ghost kitchen.

Ghost kitchens are third party food prep facilities where private label and national food brands are produced solely for delivery. These allow food to be prepped, cooked and delivered without the need for a public-facing brick and mortar restaurants. And most of the time, we never even know our food came from a ghost kitchen. That’s because these operations work directly with the delivery service, like Door Dash or Uber Eats, to make the entire ordering and delivery process seamless.

Ghost kitchens have helped restaurants stay afloat during a year when revenue has dwindled due to indoor dining restrictions and behavior changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Period to 2020, ghost kitchens were a niche type of business that existed in big cities. Now, they are being hailed as the wave of the future in restaurant business, with some projections estimating a $1 trillion dollar ghost kitchen market by 2030.

This is exciting news for those concerned about quick and consistent delivery options. But for those of us in the food safety business, there are reasons to be concerned. It’s up to us to provide these new types of food prep facilities with the tools, knowledge and accountability needed to keep them clean and safe. Some areas of concern, and ways to help ghost kitchens in the future:

Accountability. The no. 1 issue with this set up when it comes to cleanliness is the lack of public accountability in the way the restaurants are run.  Customers often choose and judge food establishments by visual cleanliness. Ghost kitchens will have to be held accountable by their clients, the restaurants themselves, to maintain the level of cleanliness that restaurant expects. If you are running or maintaining a ghost kitchen, validating your cleanliness and conducting consistent site assessments can help to prove to potential restaurant customers that you are going above your competitors and that their brand is safe in your hands.

Pest Prevention. Ghost kitchens are less populated and smaller, making them more conducive to pests than traditional restaurants. Due to the amount of increased food volume produced, cleaning crews will need to be extra vigilant when it comes to pest control in ghost kitchens. Storing food in airtight containers, maintaining refrigeration even when speed is of the essence while quickly taking the trash out are two proven pest prevention methods that work in traditional restaurants but could be overlooked in favor of speed in a ghost kitchen environment.

Cross contamination. Because ghost kitchens are often preparing food and meals for a variety of different types of restaurants, the potential for cross contamination with ingredients is higher than in a traditional restaurant. Know your food safety rules and regulations and consider designating specific tools and areas for your different types of food, or restaurant customers, if time and space allow.

I recently gave a webinar where I discussed some of the latest trends in food service and shared the Charlotte Product solutions we have for all food prep facilities, including ghost kitchens. Contact us for information product solutions for safer food prep facilities.