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Ghost Kitchens in Montana

Ghost Kitchens: Not That Spooky, We Promise

Happy Halloween Montana! On this edition of How Does That Work, we’re covering ghost kitchens – don’t worry, it’s not as spooky as it sounds.

Before COVID-19 hit, Montanans loved to eat out. In fact, on average, residents spent almost three thousand dollars each on dining out every year. But quarantine put a damper on the restaurant industry.

As restaurants slowly reopen after a season of closed doors, fingers are crossed that our favorites across the state rebound. There is a beacon of hope. In other areas of the country, quarantine accelerated the popularity of ghost kitchens.

Will ghost kitchens keep Montana’s food scene afloat as an uncertain future shakes out? How does that work?

These kitchens are commercial spaces outfitted to prepare food. They are like a restaurant, but with no servers and no dining room. That means operators don’t need to pay for as much labor or real estate as they would with a traditional restaurant.

Several different food options can come out of a ghost kitchen. Savvy operators rent out space to multiple tenants. Or, they run a few different delivery-only concepts themselves. Coupled with delivery services like DoorDash and Uber Eats, a ghost kitchen also meets the needs of a socially-distanced public.

While partnering with a third-party company can be pricey, the food delivery industry has grown 300% faster than dine-in food over the past 5 years- a trend that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

Ghost Kitchens in Montana

Ghost kitchens have already gotten some traction in Montana. In Kalispell, the Ghostland Kitchen offers full commissary and food truck prep services. As of this video, it rents out at twenty three dollars an hour. There are dedicated blocks of time for vendors, as well as a drive through window available. It’s a useful way to test a concept and get ready to scale up. Masala, an Indian restaurant in Missoula, got their start as a food cart operated out of a ghost kitchen.

Ultimately, the food cart became so popular that Masala was able to grow into a brick and mortar store downtown. Ghost kitchens can also serve as business incubators, with additional services like business consulting, photography and marketing help for tenants. Much like retail pop-ups and food trucks, Montana adopts nationwide trends with a bit more leisure – but the pandemic may inspire more ghost kitchens across the state.

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