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Guy Fieri, one of the most popular stars of Food Network, has quietly opened a series of "ghost kitchens" in 23 states and the District of Columbia.
What Happened: A ghost kitchen operates as a delivery-only service, often within the space of another restaurant brand. These endeavors incur lower costs by using existing kitchen facilities. This concept has become increasing prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic when restaurant deliveries spiked as government lockdowns either suspended indoor restaurant dining or severely restricted capacity.
Fieri, the host of long-running shows including "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and "Guy's Grocery Games," is now running the Guy Fieri's Flavortown Kitchen as delivery-only operations under the aegis of Virtual Dining Concepts LLC, a company created and run by Robert Earl, founder and CEO of Planet Hollywood. Fieri and Earl had previously teamed on Chicken Guy, a fast-casual chicken restaurant.
The Flavortown Kitchen menu is skewered to comfort food. Menu choices include Jalapeño Pig Poppers (bacon-wrapped, fire-roasted jalapeños stuffed with andouille, pimento cream cheese and glazed in bourbon brown sugar BBQ sauce), The Crazy Cuban Sandwich (smoked pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and Donkey sauce in a pressed hoagie with a side of crispy potato sticks) and Bacon Mac N Cheese Burger (do we really need to explain that one?).
Among the major markets where Fieri's ghost kitchens operate are Austin, Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, Orlando, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Washington, D.C.
Why It Matters: A new wave of restaurant job opportunities will be welcome news to the industry. The National Restaurant Association's recently published State of the Restaurant Industry report determined the industry wrapped 2020 with more than 110,000 closures and total sales around $659 billion; $240 billion lower than the trade group's association's pre-pandemic forecast. Bon Appetit magazine noted that the food and beverage industry accounted for one in four jobs lost during the pandemic — more than any other sector of the economy.
This new endeavor also brings more attention to Fieri, who is being positioned as a major draw for Discovery Network's newly launched Discovery+ streaming service.
News of the Flavortown Kitchen operations percolated across restaurant blogs and websites, creating a grassroots vibe that feels like an organic happening rather than a perfectly planned media blitz.
And even if one is not piqued by the prospect of dining on S-M-Cheesesteak Rolls (that stands for "super melty," a reference to the meal's gooey provolone cheese), at least Fieri is giving some star power energy to an industry that is long overdue a break.
(Photo courtesy Elise Thompson / Flickr)
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