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Chartwells Higher Ed rolls out ghost kitchen program nationwide

Virtual kitchens continue to build momentum in noncommercial and elsewhere.
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Chartwells Higher Ed is proving it’s not afraid of the paranormal.

In fact, it’s leaning into ghost kitchens, the virtual format that had been gaining steam pre-pandemic and has served as a labor solution and sales-builder for many operations during the COVID-19 crisis, by implementing the option at colleges across the country.

The foodservice management company piloted its ghost kitchen initiative at schools including Seattle University, SUNY Buffalo and San Jose State University.

"We decided to open our ghost kitchen in response to students and parents looking for increased meal variety and a safe alternative to on-campus dining, particularly on the weekends and for plant-based options,” Terry Conaty, resident district manager at Seattle University, said in a statement. “The feedback so far has been phenomenal. Our team was able to get the program up and running quickly, and our costs were minimal as we simply repurposed existing kitchen space.”

Seattle University’s ghost kitchen debuted in September with rotating offerings of 12 main dishes and 12 desserts, and received over 24,000 orders in its first month of operation.  

Some restaurant brands are also finding colleges, full of tech-savvy young customers who prize convenience, to be a solid proving ground for these sorts of virtual concepts. The sandwich chain Jersey Mike’s recently opened its first ghost kitchen at Rider University in New Jersey.

Outside of higher ed, ghost kitchens have been finding their way into underutilized space at hotels, shopping malls and elsewhere.

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