The American food industry is valued at around $863 billion. Once dominated by restaurants and take aways, with some delivery services thrown in, the last few years have seen a massive shift in the way we purchase and consume our breakfast, lunch and dinner. In an on-demand world, food is now just as accessible. Third-party restaurant delivery services like Seamless, UberEats, Postmates, and Caviar have taken a $19 billion bite out of the industry, with signs pointing to further growth.
To meet the ever-increasing demand on these apps for more food, more of the time, delivered around the clock, a new phenomenon had arisen: The Ghost Kitchen. No longer must restaurateurs rent space for a dining room. All they need is a kitchen — or even just part of one. Then they can hang a shingle inside a meal-delivery app and market their food to the app's customers, without the hassle and expense of hiring waiters or paying for furniture and tablecloths. Diners who order from the apps may have no idea that the restaurant doesn't physically exist. Ghost kitchens don't need the best locations, and all resources can be focused on providing high quality food to the customer's door.
This is all fantastic for our on-the-go world, but for anyone who has used one of these apps, there are two unmet needs, both of which have been identified and filled with creamy goodness by eagle-eyed entrepreneur and industry expert, Hala Achkar.
The first need, she notes, is "lackluster attention given to our favorite part of every meal, whether we want to admit it or not: dessert." The sweet part of our meals is often seen as a luxury or impulse buy, and thus for the purveyor of delivery-based meals it is frequently an after-thought. Look at most menus and you'll see customers are limited in their choice—cupcakes, cookies, and ice cream being the standard fare on offer. Indeed, unless you are lucky enough to live in Paris, with access to many patisseries, then your only means of enjoying a delicious chocolate éclair was to frequent an expensive French restaurant.
Enter Hala's company: Bonchou Eclairerie.
Forget a run-of-the-mill cheesecake, Bonchou eclairs are created from a classic Parisian recipe using only the highest-quality ingredients, including cage-free eggs, hormone-free milk, real butter and real 72% bittersweet Belgium chocolate. If that weren't enough, Bonchou' éclair's are bite-size, and guilt-free—each one only 70 calories and 4-5g of sugar. It's safe to say, Hala's pastries are an impulse buy you won't regret later.
How does Hala get these morsels to customers? By utilizing the Ghost Kitchen Model.
To begin, Hala ensured her product was travel ready. One of the biggest issues with these delivery services is: what can be delivered, often in a backpack, on the back on a motorcycle, and arrive in a presentable and edible state? Bonchou eclairs can arrive in mint condition, thanks to the flash freezing process—which took Hala a year to perfect. Given their small size, the eclairs thaw out en route and so arrive to the customer with all the taste of a freshly prepared product. No melted ice cream or soggy brownie issues here.
Then, Hala created a new channel for delivery, utilizing the Ghost Kitchen Model. Having a physical restaurant only for her eclairs made no sense. Equally, having an online store front was also not cost efficient due to high shipping expenses and fulfillment fees. Putting her product in supermarkets only also made little business sense given the need to pay high slotting fees and subsidize demos, promotions and merchandising. Hala's innovation was to sell her eclairs using one more of the delivery apps, without having a physical address of her own at all.
Normally, the owners of these delivery apps will not let anyone sell on their platform without a store location. However, using her business acumen, Hala made deals with several app providers to have only a pick-up address (a Ghost Kitchen). This was made possible by her good friend Hady Kfoury, owner of Naya Mezze and Grill on the Upper East Side of New York city. Hady agreed rent space in Naya, and act as her Ghost Kitchen, where her fancy pastries could be stored until called upon and picked up.
As of right now, Bonchou eclairs are available for delivery on Seamless and Grubhouse—Fabulous!
But, Hala isn't stopping there. A Hospitality and Food industry expert, Hala introduced bagels to the Middle East, through Tribeca coffee and Bagels, and has been Managing Director of the Monroe Hotel company, among other things. "Naturally," she said "I was looking for a way to up the ante." This brings us to the second unmet need in the app delivery business: multiple vendors. "The issue with the ghost kitchens is they operate in isolation," Hala tells us. "Thus, if you want a sandwich from X company, a drink from Y company and a dessert from Bonchou, that's three separate deliveries—unless you house multiple providers in one ghost kitchen."
This is Hala's plan. She is currently working with her industry peers, putting their collective expertise together, to make that transaction even smoother and cheaper for the customer. All we can say is: watch this ghost space. And while you're waiting, maybe order a Bonchou éclair or six.
Bonchou Eclairerie Mini Eclairs are available in chocolate, coffee, salted caramel, peanut butter, and coconut. The suggested retail price is $11.99 for six. For more information please visit www.bonchou.com