Ghost kitchens take off in New York City, and while delivery-only restaurants are not inherently problematic, they can often be read as big-money money-laundering schemes by Big Tech, And sometimes George Lopez. “To me it feels like quick money making,” says Kristen Barnett, former chief operating officer of Zuul, a ghost kitchen company acquired by Kitchens United, a larger ghost kitchen company, earlier this year. But what if those brands had a little more heart and maybe a colorful Gen Z aesthetic to match?
Enter Hungry House, a food delivery platform Barnett launched outside the Brooklyn Navy yard earlier this week. The brand defines itself as an “anti-ghost kitchen”, and although the company is, ostensibly, another ghost kitchen, its founder uses the term to differentiate its tasks from its collection and shipping counterparts.
“Where are the failures of the current ghost kitchen industry? How could it be better?” Says Barnett. “That’s the kind of conversation I want Hungry House to create.”
Ahead of its launch, Barnett brought in the respected chefs Weldy Rice, from the Weldy Cousina Filipino Catering and Pop Up Company; Rolston Williams, who manages the knockout Sermon on the Mount A dining counter in the Brooklyn Navy yard; And Martha Hoover, the James Byrd-nominated chef behind the Indiana-born-distributed hamburger spot Apocalypse Burger. Commodity store, Managed by Rachel Krupa, offers keto rubber bears, GMO-free popcorn and other snacks.
However, do not expect to see these chefs in the Brooklyn Navy yard. Hungry House collaborates with chefs and restaurateurs, who work with Barnett to tailor their dishes to take-out and delivery. Participating chefs pay royalties for using their dishes and brand, but they are not actually present in the kitchen when the double burgers and their chicken bowls are packaged for collection and delivery.
“It’s really different from launching any of these concepts into the Doordash site,” Barnett explains. Chefs do not need to have a simple restaurant – as in the case of Waldy Cousina – to sign up for the platform, and the shared kitchen model means new partners can enter the company with just one plate. To start, most chefs offer three to five.
Hungry House joins a string of collection and delivery businesses recently minted in New York. The national kitchen chain Kitchen United is due to open in New York later this month, according to the company’s representative – who joined Lopez, DJ Khaled, And Guy Fairy. Earlier this year, the founder of Small Beet, Franklin Becker, launched his own line of ghost kitchens, serving tacos, peking ducks and Israeli dishes from Soho.
Still, Barnett is trying to stand out with Hungry House by helping this early group of restaurateurs reach new markets – in the case of Apocalypse Burger, which Hoover launched in Indiana during the plague – and customers. Rice, from Weldy Cousina, has been running his catering business since 2016 and has popped up in restaurants about once a month during the plague. The partnership will help him serve his sought-after Philippine tariff on a more consistent basis, he says.
“I built a small audience of followers during the plague,” Rice says. “I get a lot of comments with people asking, ‘Where can I get your food?’ Where did you pop up afterwards? ‘ Well, now you can have it every day. “
Still in its first week, Barnett says the kitchen burgers were an early hit, and there is already talk of opening a second Ghost Kitchen location in Manhattan early next year. For now, the outpost in the Brooklyn Navy yard is open for drop-off and delivery Monday through Friday, 12 to 8 p.m. Closed on weekends.