Technology & Equipment

Smart lockers add seamless pickup to ghost kitchens

Over the past two years, amid the surge of off-premise dining, ghost kitchens saw unprecedented growth and success.

The growth of these technology-driven, off-premise-only facilities accelerated rapidly in 2020, and they are projected to account for 21% of total U.S. restaurant market share by 2025, according to research from CBRE.

Ghost kitchens’ growth follows the widespread dining restrictions of the pandemic, when consumers turned to mobile app-based ordering, pickup and delivery to satisfy their cravings for restaurant food. In 2020, more than 111 million people used an online ordering app—a 17% increase from 2019, according to the CBRE research, which cited data aggregated from Business Apps, Statista, McKinsey, and Morgan Stanley.

Consumers now expect a more tech-focused, seamless digital experience from end-to-end when they order food for off-premises consumption, including food from ghost kitchens. That means not only a seamless ordering experience, but also a seamless pickup experience when the customer or delivery driver arrives to collect their order.

This aspect of order fulfillment can be challenging for brands given the tight labor market, as operators are focused on maximizing the efficiency of their workforce. Ghost kitchens in particular are designed to operate with reduced labor expenses due to the lack of servers and other dine-in staff, and they need an order fulfillment solution that maintains this lower-cost model.

That’s where pickup lockers can play an important role in the future of ghost kitchens. Smart pickup lockers from Apex Order Pickup Solutions provide an efficient, contactless system that makes the order-handoff process easy for all parties involved. Workers simply place orders into the back of the designated locker, and customers or delivery drivers unlock the front of the locker using a code when they arrive.

Rider University was able to meet consumer demand for seamless pickup at a Gourmet Dining-operated Jersey Mike’s ghost kitchen location on campus by utilizing Apex lockers to fulfill orders.

“This just took us to the next level for something that was contemporary and innovative for our students,” said Andrew Pignataro, assistant VP, Auxiliary Services at Rider University. “Front of the house and back of the house, it's been a win-win-win for all of us in the partnership.”

George Kuzma, VP of Business Development, Gourmet Dining, said the company was already using Grubhub for mobile ordering, so the technology was in place to turn the operation into a ghost kitchen with the installation of pickup lockers.

“This is so seamless and plug-and-play that it really was a good benefit without a lot of work on our end,” he said.

Apex’s new OrderHQ Series combines innovative locker technology with its advanced ApexIQ software to provide fully automated order fulfillment that’s efficient, fast and easy to use. It integrates with both front- and back-of-house technologies, to help keep dwell times short, and its ambient compartments hold both hot and cold items.

The technology maintains visibility and accountability to ensure orders are handed off quickly and accurately. Importantly, it also provides portfolio-wide data and analytics, helping ghost kitchen operators better understand their order fulfillment metrics to optimize their kitchen operations and minimize costs.

Visit Apex Order Pickup Solutions to learn more about how smart lockers can make ghost kitchens operate seamlessly from end-to-end.

This post is sponsored by Apex Order Pickup Solutions