5 votes

Our ghost-kitchen future

7 comments

  1. [6]
    ThatFanficGuy
    Link
    I find the idea of outsourcing foodwork in its entirety – no cooking, no buying produce, no looking at foods at all – fascinating. Not good, necessarily, and certainly not the only fate, but...

    I find the idea of outsourcing foodwork in its entirety – no cooking, no buying produce, no looking at foods at all – fascinating. Not good, necessarily, and certainly not the only fate, but fascinating – as in, one of those cyberpunk things that would only make sense in fiction up until five years ago.

    On a vague hunch, I don't think private cooking will go away any time soon: for a lot of people it's a pleasure to do, for another lot – just another facet of life they take for granted. But I can certainly see, with the way things ramp up towards being productive and always-available, how it can give way to another inpersonal abstraction of a life need.

    What I'd like to see the result of is an experiment where such kitchens offer foods that may well have been made in someone's kitchen: dead-simple meals that one could realistically cook themselves in 5 minutes but wouldn't because they're too busy. I can imagine this sort of food delivered, like milk, door to door, so all the busy person has to do is get the products from their doorstep and return the packaging (which would naturally have to preserve heat) back to the doorstep once they're out for work.

    On a vague hunch, I can see it working.

    3 votes
    1. [5]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      If you really don't want to spend any time on food, Soylent would do it, and it's hard to see how to make it any more convenient. The Mint Chocolate flavor is quite tasty. Ordering take-out seems...

      If you really don't want to spend any time on food, Soylent would do it, and it's hard to see how to make it any more convenient. The Mint Chocolate flavor is quite tasty. Ordering take-out seems more like entertainment?

      We don't do it all the time because my wife likes cooking and I like her cooking, and besides we don't really need to save time. But always having the option to take the night off from it is freeing.

      3 votes
      1. [4]
        ThatFanficGuy
        Link Parent
        Or, you could still get food to order without submitting yourself to Silicon Valley-style transhumanism. Not everyone is built for that sort of reduction of appetites.

        Or, you could still get food to order without submitting yourself to Silicon Valley-style transhumanism. Not everyone is built for that sort of reduction of appetites.

        4 votes
        1. [3]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          Yeah, I think you're reacting to its strong cultural reputation, sort of like someone not wanting to eat a veggie burger because that's hippie food. In the end it's a drink and you don't have to...

          Yeah, I think you're reacting to its strong cultural reputation, sort of like someone not wanting to eat a veggie burger because that's hippie food. In the end it's a drink and you don't have to buy into any particular lifestyle. As with many nutritional subjects, there is little scientific evidence, but I do think it's probably healthier than living on fast food.

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            ThatFanficGuy
            Link Parent
            I am now going to confuse you a little by telling you that I actually like the idea of Soylent. I like this notion of simplification of basic needs, where you no longer have to worry about...

            I am now going to confuse you a little by telling you that I actually like the idea of Soylent. I like this notion of simplification of basic needs, where you no longer have to worry about different sources of food staying up to a reasonable price for long-enough for you to manage to buy and produce enough nutrition with it. Soylent – generally speaking – solves most of that by replacing it with a single source of nutrition.

            What I don't like is Soylent itself – or, rather, protein drinks and the idea of only ever feeding myself that for extended periods of time.

            They lack the texture and the flavor that I'm looking for from food. Soylent, to me, isn't food: it's a source of nutrition. (Yes, I'm tangling together nutrition and food pleasure. That's by choice.) Even the Burger King Whopper is more food than Soylent.

            It's the same reason I dislike Silicon Valley-style minimalism: it takes aesthetics out of design, but it's presented as The Next Big Thing™ because Silicon Valley doesn't care about the soul: it cares about technology, innovation, and profit. You can make something simple and beautiful, simple and flavorful, simple and stylish.

            Same with food.

            1 vote
            1. skybrian
              Link Parent
              Both Soylent's manufacturer (Rosa Foods) and other companies have come up with other kinds of "nutritionally complete" food that aren't drinks. We tried some "nutritionally complete" instant ramen...

              Both Soylent's manufacturer (Rosa Foods) and other companies have come up with other kinds of "nutritionally complete" food that aren't drinks. We tried some "nutritionally complete" instant ramen noodles and they're pretty good, and better if you add your own ingredients.

              I don't think there is a standard saying what "nutritionally complete" means, so it seems likely that in the end, it just becomes a buzzword to sell food.

              Rosa Foods has also backed off on the idea of living on Soylent for extended periods. They don't sell it that way anymore, though there are still people who do it.

              I am not sure this actually says much about Silicon Valley as a whole, other than that there are people who are willing to try something new and are receptive to a sales pitch based on science (allegedly) and convenience rather than tradition. And in the end, Rosa Foods seems to have found that pitch not to be very helpful for taking a relatively expensive drink mainstream, so they instead seem to be focusing on introducing new flavors like many other drink sellers do. And their new bottles look a bit more stylish.

              4 votes
  2. skybrian
    Link
    From the article: [...] [...] [...]

    From the article:

    Currently, the food offered by Reef’s internal brands comes from US Foods, a food distributor that works with colleges, hotels, and hospitals, and is a wholesale supplier for independent restaurants and diners. In San Francisco, the menu items are delivered to a central commissary in the Bayview area, and come individually wrapped; precise assembly instructions are provided to line cooks. Every night, Reef’s trailers, which are managed under a subsidiary, Vessel CA, return to the commissary, where the gray-water tanks are drained, the potable-water tanks are refilled, and the refrigerators are restocked. Reef has ambitions to offer fresher, more sophisticated fare, eventually. But, for now, customers may find themselves paying a premium for meals similar to those found at a fast-food restaurant, or in a supermarket freezer.

    [...]

    In most cities, opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant requires a gauntlet of permits and inspections; restaurateurs waiting on permits might find themselves paying months of rent for space they aren’t yet allowed to use. Reef’s kitchens are registered as mobile food facilities, which tend to have fewer permitting requirements. Like the trailers themselves, the business details are configurable: Reef offers flexible staffing arrangements and short-term leases.

    [...]

    Uber Eats, which delivers from Reef and CloudKitchens, among others, has facilitated seven thousand virtual restaurants, more than four thousand of which are in North America. Using data from in-app searches, Uber Eats identifies opportunities for certain cuisines in various neighborhoods, then approaches existing brick-and-mortar restaurateurs to pitch them the idea of launching a virtual restaurant. “Virtual restaurants are meant to be a demand-generation tool for our restaurant partners,” Kristen Adamowski, the virtual-restaurants lead at Uber Eats, said. “We partner with a restaurant to spin up virtual restaurants, to fulfill that cuisine gap. We’ll provide the high-level cuisine insight. And then we take it one step further, and provide a list of menu items within that cuisine type that are also in high demand. So we provide that granular menu-level insight.”

    [...]

    Some restaurant owners operate ten virtual brands from a single kitchen. In February, when the New York City Council held an oversight hearing on the impact of ghost kitchens on local businesses, Matt Newberg, an entrepreneur and independent journalist, testified that he had visited a CloudKitchens commissary in Los Angeles where twenty-seven kitchens, occupying eleven thousand square feet, operated a hundred and fifteen restaurants on delivery platforms. Newberg posted a video online, which depicted line cooks packed into a windowless warehouse, yelling over the sounds of tablets and phones chiming with order alerts. For the people working in ghost kitchens, there is nothing spectral about this environment. As in most restaurants, the apparition is for customers; the ghosts are the workers themselves.

    2 votes