A “ghost kitchen” is now delivering food to homes in Manchester and Bedford — a business that evolved in light of the global pandemic.
DingDongDeliver.com was launched two weeks ago by Tom Boucher, CEO of Great New Hampshire Restaurants.
“I had been thinking about this concept for about a year, but COVID-19 sped up the process,” said Boucher.
Ghost kitchens were first established in larger cities several years ago when restaurants and chefs were frustrated with the high cost of real estate. When rent chews into profits, ghost kitchens are a great alternative, Boucher said.
In his case, the kitchen was already in place at Great New Hampshire Restaurants’ catering facility on Union Street in Manchester. Utilizing the existing facility that prepares food for T-Bones, CJ’s Great West Grill and Copper Door, the ghost kitchen is now being used to prepare food that is delivered directly to a customer’s home.
While services such as DoorDash and Uber Eats are available, those companies take about 30% of the revenue, Boucher says.
“That is more than we make,” he said.
Instead, Boucher decided to cut out the pricey middleman and deliver meals directly to patrons. During the pandemic, people have embraced curbside pickup and takeout, but there are many others who appreciate the convenience of delivery, especially if they are immunocompromised or elderly, Boucher said.
“We are making all of this from scratch the day that you actually get your delivery. There is nothing frozen,” he said.
Customers can order some of their favorite dishes from menus at T-Bones, CJ’s and Copper Door, including chicken pot pie, five-cheese lasagna and lobster mac and cheese. They can build their own lobster rolls and purchase meals for a family of four or six, including smoked BBQ, burgers, pork, brisket and marinated steak tips. A variety of desserts and side items such as coleslaw, corn on the cob, baked beans and watermelon are also on the menu.
The meals are delivered touchless and in coolers with ice packs, meaning customers do not need to be home at the time of delivery. All items are packaged cold with directions on how to reheat or cook the meals. Since there are no servers, no hosts and no rent because the catering facility was already in operation, Boucher said the labor costs are greatly reduced.
Since DingDongDeliver.com launched two weeks ago, Boucher said the feedback has been encouraging and they have already had repeat customers. At this time, delivery is available in Manchester and Bedford.
Boucher foresees other restaurants throughout New Hampshire adopting similar ghost kitchen initiatives as a way to keep the revenue stream going during these uncertain times. Although indoor dining resumed last week at half capacity in southern New Hampshire, Boucher says it has been a slow climb.
The warm weather has been a blessing, and many people are currently opting to dine outside, he explained. Now, with the ghost kitchen in operation, it will provide one more alternative for patrons to eat restaurant quality food delivered directly to their homes and businesses.
Just like Boucher, Scott Hayward of Tupelo Music Hall has also had to adjust operations to keep his business open.
“You have to adapt and you have to figure it out in order to produce some money,” Hayward said.
Early on during the stay-at-home order, Tupelo kept its food and beverage venue in service, providing prepared meals for pick-up. It also was delivering meals to people in the medical industry, while also selling face masks and hand sanitizer.
Since then, Tupelo Music Hall has shifted to a drive-in model and is offering six shows a week.
“Right now we are doing about 35 percent income for this month. It is really going well for us, and all of our shows are selling out,” Hayward said.
“We had to lay off 30 people, but now all of them are back. For the restaurant business and for the entertainment business, you have to adjust with the times. I did not work this hard to go out of business.”