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Ghost kitchens (also known as dark, cloud, shadow, zombie, or virtual kitchens) are spaces equipped to prepare meals for one or more delivery-only restaurants. A growing number of established and startup restauranteurs are embracing the ghost-kitchen concept to meet the rising demand for food delivery. Just as transportation network companies (e.g., Uber and Lyft) have disrupted the taxi industry, ghost kitchens are disrupting the restaurant industry.
Many communities already host one or more ghost kitchens, and many more should expect to receive applications for this use in the coming months and years — whether from existing restauranteurs hoping to convert seating areas to kitchen space, or from entrepreneurs interested in launching new businesses at the intersection of food and technology. Planners and local officials can help the communities they serve respond to this trend by developing a regulatory strategy that removes unintentional barriers to ghost kitchens while minimizing potential land-use conflicts.
This edition of PAS QuickNotes defines ghost kitchens and explores how planners and officials can ensure their communities are ready for this emerging use.
About the Author
David Morley, AICP
David Morley, AICP, is a Research Program and QA Manager at the American Planning Association in Chicago, where he manages and contributes to sponsored research projects; manages the development of the Research KnowledgeBase; provides customized research assistance through the Inquiry Answer Service; develops, organizes, and participates in educational sessions and workshops; and writes for APA publications. Mr. Morley also co-edits Zoning Practice.