Remember during the beginning of the pandemic when everyone found out that Chuck E. Cheese was selling pizza under the pseudonym Pasqually's in an attempt to pass off their disks of molten play-doh as a genuine New York slice? It's hard to forget because that shit was hilarious, but it was also a "Chechov's pizza" of sorts, a bit of foreshadowing towards the horrors to come. See, Chuck E Cheese was operating what has come to be called a "virtual kitchen" or a "ghost kitchen" (spooky), essentially just a restaurant with no storefront or dining room that's geared towards delivery-only business. But Chuck E. Cheese isn't the only restaurant to do this. Many have, with some turning their existing spaces into virtual kitchens and others renting out entire warehouses to act as a brand new ghost kitchen command center. 

They'll even run multiple brands and cuisines out of the same kitchen. Move over combination Taco Bell/Pizza Hut of yesteryear. We've got a Quiznos/Cheesecakefactory/Pepe’s Perogies/ Rocky’s Italian/ Canadian Jerk/ Slush Puppie/ Monster Cupcakes/ Cinnabon/ Amaya Indian Street Food/Taco Del Mar/Lola’s Latin Food/ Tazo/ Red Bull/ Crêpe Delicious/ Nescafé/Ben & Jerry’s now.

And from a business standpoint, it all makes sense. They save on the various costs of operating a dining room, like paying for waitstaff or programing the animatronic mice, and you get to have food delivered to you at an affordable rate. It's a win-win for everyone, so much so that publication after publication after publication has dubbed ghost kitchens as "the future of the restaurant industry."

But if you're reading this and feeling a bit queasy, know that's not just the taco/perogie/Red Bull fusion you ordered. It's also because you know in your gut that there's something rather dystopian about your remaining meals being shipped to you from an unspecified location. Eating isn't only about the food. It's about the experience. You talk to your server when you go out to eat. You're usually able to see into the kitchen. There's a sense of trust that is built. You know you're chicken wings aren't being squirted out of a tube in Area 51. You're also just there because it's fun. Where would we be as a society if a young John Mulaney grew up in a world mostly run with ghost kitchens? We certainly wouldn't know the joys of trolling strangers with jukebox tunes, that's for damn sure.

Granted, delivery is also one of those dining experiences too, and hell, if it can't be a great one. We dare you to find a sexual position that feels better than having xiaolongbao delivered to your door in the midst of a Netflix binge. But the worry here is that if ghost kitchens become too successful, it will be at the expense of everything else. Think of how Amazon is able to cut its prices (and crush small businesses) because a warehouse is so much more cost-effective than a store. But we don't think that's going to be the case. Eating is too communal an activity and also, the John Mulaney thing.

Follow Dan on Twitter to learn more about his upcoming projects and find him on his podcast The Bachelor Zone to hear him talk about The Bachelor like it is a sport. (Because it is.)

Top Image: Pexels

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