Ghost Kitchens are nothing new, depending on who you ask. There are some who say that they're just a natural progression of food cart vendors from Sumerian times, and others who say that they are a much newer phenomenon that dates back to delivery-only restaurants with a specific business model that was engendered in 2013.
If you've never heard of what a Ghost Kitchen is, the concept is simple and pretty well defined by this USA Today article: "A ghost kitchen, also known as a dark kitchen or cloud kitchen, is a digital-only restaurant that is available only on food delivery apps like Postmates, UberEats, and GrubHub. These kitchens only offer food items and drinks from online brands, cutting out the storefront and human interaction of traditional eateries."
One popular example of a Ghost Kitchen is Mr. Beast Burger, which will often utilize the kitchens of other eating establishments in order to make specific food items of a certain standard. The YouTube personality seems to be distancing himself from the franchise, but the practice as a whole is still alive and well, something that a TikToker named Sarah (@sarahshoots) noticed while placing orders for delivery through popular applications like DoorDash, GrubHub, and Uber Eats.
Sarah cautions hungry diners browsing these apps to double check the addresses of intriguing new food options in their area as these establishments may be a place they may have not wanted to order from. In her clip she highlighted how with just a quick Google search she found several restaurants, with different names, are actually operating out of a Denny's, Chili's, or another local small business entirely.
"My favorite thing to do is get on a delivery app and anywhere I haven't seen before, Google the address and see what it really is and what they're hiding," she says at the onset of her video.
Sarah continues: "You can do this on any food delivery app but for the ease of this video let's just look at Uber Eats. So here we have the burger den at 5501 Leesburg Pike. Hunh, I've never heard of the Burger Den before what's that?"
"Oh 5501 Leesburg Pike, it's a Denny's. Look at how convincing this is, look how fun the Burger Den is, Feel the Burn Burger, Vibe with Shrooms Burger. Spill the Bourbon Burger."
She continues to show off another menu for a different Ghost Kitchen restaurant that the TikToker says is actually just a Denny's trying to convince customers that they're purchasing burgers from a new restaurant dedicated only to serving up burgers, as it has the same address.
"Oooh, the Meltdown 5501 Leesburg Pike, that looks kinda good. Guys, it's still Denny's they're just posing as multiple different brands. Ohooo I'm really craving some wings have you guys ever been to It's Just Wings?"
Sarah then rattles off another restaurant for a Ghost Kitchen, and decides to look at the address where the eatery is supposed to be located: "At 6601 Richmond Highway? Cause it's Chili's, it's just a Chili's."
She shows off another place that she finds "super interesting" but highlights that it's not just large chains that engage in this practice, but also small businesses.
"Sunday Best Breakfast sandwiches, well that would be the small business bottom of the gate cafe, which also moonlights as breakfast in bed delivery on GrubHub. A lot of small businesses do it this is Billy's Cafe at 3907 Lee Highway. So here we can find them as Hatch House, 3907 Lee Highway, same address."
But as Sarah says, this restaurant is also suffering from a multiple-eatery-personality disorder: "AKA Daydream Breakfast Burritos, AKA The Salad Dream. What can't they do?"
This isn't the first time someone has aired out this practice on social media, in December of 2022, a DoorDash driver issued a warning to customers that they might want to do some research, like Sarah suggests, into ensuring that the hip new pancake house they're ordering from isn't just an IHOP.
There were some viewers who responded to Sarah's video that they fell prey to this scam. But in some instances, like this woman's husband learned, they were maybe missing out on something they loved but wouldn't have otherwise ordered because it was associated with a brand they probably wouldn't purchase from otherwise: "My husband fell in love with a pizza place called Pasquallys. Ordered it all the time. We were eating Chuck E. Cheese pizza."
Another DoorDash driver who responded to her clip stated that they, too, were initially confused by this practice but soon learned what it was: "This was so confusing as a doordash driver until I learned what a ghost kitchen was lol"
Someone else said that they won't order from a ghost kitchen based on principle alone because they don't like feeling as if they had the wool pulled over their eyes: "I refuse to order from ghost kitchens out of principle haha like how dare you try to bamboozle me!"