Virtual restaurant and ghosts of past California burritos

Santa Monica, CA-July 1, 2021 --- Customers wait for food on July 1, 2021 at the Order Colony in Santa Monica. Order Colonies are a new commercial real estate application where dozens of restaurant brands can operate in a single restaurant. Kitchen space. Acceleration of deliveries and takeaways, and the financial stress caused by pandemics, has led to more restaurants participating.  (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times) For Reference Editor: We didn't have permission to take pictures within our business. I created this image using my iPHONE through a side door leading to an outdoor patio for business. I stood in their property when I created this image.

Customers wait for a meal at Colony, a ghost kitchen in Santa Monica Boulevard. The building is divided into several kitchen spaces, with dozens of brands serving food from one place. (Jennaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

For the past decade or so, Benito’s octopus shop on Santa Monica Boulevard has been my favorite California burrito spot to the west.

That is my line of trust. Not necessarily because it’s the best taste or the best burrito, but because it’s the burrito that was there over and over again for me.

Benito’s has saved many nights with the simple virtue of being open until 3am. Since then, burritos have been better, but California burritos have chewy, slightly translucent french fries, soft carneasadas, and french fries instead of potatoes.

A few weeks ago, I called my regular order, Burrito, California, and three roll tacos to order.

But when I drove Santa Monica Boulevard, I couldn’t find the familiar yellow and orange Benito sign anywhere. I checked Yelp and found that the page was still active, even though the storefront photo and Santa Monica Boulevard’s address were listed.

I started to get very anxious. I was careful about the parking lot, desperately started walking up and down the blocks, flip-flops flapping, sweating, and my heart pounding. I think I’ve just changed the location. Neither is my Benito.

Customers see signs with food choices.

Acceleration of deliveries and takeaways, and the financial stress caused by pandemics, have led more restaurants to join the ghost kitchen, also known as the virtual kitchen or cloud kitchen. (Jennaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The truth was a little difficult to swallow. Benito’s closed the physical store some time ago and moved to a ghost kitchen in a building called Colony. This is a refurbishment of the former Ethan Allen furniture space into kitchen facilities and a dining patio. I finally put Benito’s sign on a distant wall.

It was displayed along with more than 12 other brands in a rounded square grid reminiscent of the app icon on the smartphone home screen.

The colony I learned is an example of a new evolution of commercial real estate called the Ghost Kitchen, also known as the Cloud or Virtual Kitchen. There are at least two in Los Angeles and one in Pasadena. Each facility is divided into several kitchen spaces, with dozens of brands serving food from one space, both in virtual-only locations and in well-established physical stores like Canter’s.

Ghost kitchens allow restaurant owners to create a brand without the costly and time-consuming process of finding space. Existing restaurant brands can also spin off new brands with much less upfront costs.Colleague Roger Vincent Record The rise a few months ago points out that setting up and renting a ghost kitchen can cost as low as $ 5,000 a month, as much as $ 20,000.

In Pasadena, Eats on Madison offers a wide range of food options that will dazzle you from one space, including barbecues, pizzas, cabobs, tacos, burgers, musubi, sub-sandwiches, burritos, wings and acai bowls.

Rachel Janbeck, manager of the Pasadena Environmental Health Department, said each brand must register with the city as its own business and apply for a shared kitchen permit. Each brand also undergoes a separate food inspection and pays its own taxes.

Cloud Kitchen gives chefs and business owners more flexibility by reducing startup costs, said Blake Kaplan, JLL’s retail broker who has worked at Cloud Kitchen. The pandemic blockade has created vaccinations and delivery and takeaway habits that may not change with resumption.

According to Assn, an international food service maker. A study of delivery habits done in 201 `7 years, 21% of my generation, millennials order deliveries at least three times a week. The proportion of Generation Z is 24%.

Ghost kitchens are projected to account for 21% of total restaurant sales by 2025, according to a CBRE report. The online food ordering business is expected to grow 64% over the same period.

Ghost Kitchen focuses on restaurant retail, saying it should help restaurants respond to these changing situations by reducing start-up costs and promoting entrepreneurship and innovation. Jim Crosenji, an advisor to the restaurant, said. Ghost kitchens can launch new restaurants in just two weeks, but physical restaurants often take more than a year to launch.

But for me, these physical store spaces are an integral part of urban life and are undervalued, so I can’t help but worry. After almost two years of blockade, we all know how lonely and barren life can be without these spaces mixing and interacting.

As the city and state reopen, many of us enjoy the taste of food (any food) that spends less than 45 minutes in Styrofoam containers. Rediscover the joy of meeting in person at your beloved bars, restaurants and cafes. We are learning that cities are more than you can buy — the places you go and the people you can meet.

And now, these physical store spaces are facing competition from fully virtual brands that are much cheaper and much more flexible. From the list of distribution apps, it is impossible to determine which brands are in-store and which brands only exist online.

I decided to go ahead and try the burrito. My phone order on OrderColony was not completed. An employee told me to line up on my iPad and re-enter my order.

And there was another vacant face of the millennial generation in pajamas and training clothes. We were all staring at the iPhone while waiting to enter an order on a dirty tablet. It was a harsh view of what the future would look like, completely shaped by the desires of my generation. Or, at least, a private-equity fund or venture capital firm interpreting our aspirations based on the data collected from social feeds.

What if the market share of deliveries and takeaways grows, making it unsustainable to run a physical restaurant, or expensive enough that only wealthy patrons can afford to eat? ?? What if the most beneficial use of our city’s buildings would be the setting for an unborn online Jaguar notebook? What if Instagram traffic replaces foot traffic? What if another pandemic accelerated these evolutions and made them permanent? This city will not be the same.

The ghost kitchen version of the burrito, which I’ve been eating for over 10 years, has finally arrived. I ate most of the food in this pandemic, so I ate it on the coffee table at home. The food tasted as I remember — the tortillas were nice and chewy, and the rolled tacos were drowning in guacamole and orange cheese.

I couldn’t shake my feelings of being deceived. But in the end, I’m glad that the burritos still remain.

This story was originally Los Angeles Times..

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