The restaurant industry was hit hard during the pandemic and is now dealing with supply issues and staff shortages. However, one local business owner is taking an innovative approach to getting his food into the hands of hungry customers, by opening his very own ghost kitchen.
Kabir Bhakta, owner of Dahlia Mexican Kitchen, is known for flavorful Mexican cuisine. But he also serves up hundreds of burgers from his Daytona Beach location. While they are being made inside the Dahlia kitchen, they are technically from another concept called Burger 10.
“Somehow, it is just the perfect combination," said Bhakta.
Bhakta shared that his idea of adding a ghost kitchen dedicated to a completely different cuisine was born from the pandemic, in an effort to offer more options to customers looking for take out or delivery.
“That actually forced us to get creative," said Bhakta. "And we were super surprised with the response from our customers, Burger 10 hit it off, it created in the first month about $7,000 dollars in revenue just with a takeout concept so that is $7,000 dollars that we didn't have and it helped us for sure.”
Ghost kitchens are kitchens that are focused solely on takeout and delivery, requiring less overhead than the traditional restaurant as no dining areas or waiters are needed. It's becoming a popular option since the pandemic, with the National Restaurant Association predicting sales from ghost kitchens rose 42% in 2020. For Bhakta, it took off in a way he never imagined
“And now we can’t really keep up with the burger thing," said Bhakta. "Especially during rush at dinner time or Friday or Saturdays we can’t really keep up with having Mexican and burgers at the same time.”
That's when he decided to leave the four walls of his restaurant and hit the road, fully committing to the virtual kitchen concept, believing it's the way of the future.
“And so I said what if we had multiple of this under this roof,” said Bhakta.
The National Restaurant Association believes that sales from these kitchens could grow as fast as 25% a year over the next five years. It's a trend Bhakta wants to be in front of.
“Covid actually accelerated that growth of takeout and delivery, it forced us to adapt to that and so that is what we are doing, we need to adapt otherwise we can’t move forward,” said Bhakta.
It’s why he’s gone all in, creating a stand-alone ghost kitchen in Ormond Beach he calls GigaBites-- where he cooks up food from 12 different concepts all under one roof. Orders come flooding in— for everything from Poke to ramen, to chicken wings and pasta, even though they’ve only been open for a month.
“Everybody that owns a restaurant should have something like this to create more revenue for their already existing business. It is the future, people are eating at home more and more and who knows what is going to happen inn the future what if another pandemic breaks out,” said Bhakta.
He said that given rising inflation costs and work force shortages, this model helps his bottom line without sacrificing quality.
“We’ve got nine team members right now. We just added another one, so 10 versus 35 employees that I have at Dahlias, so it is definitely creating savings for me for sure,” Bhakta.
It’s a path he never imagined the restaurant industry would be on, but one he’s excited to blaze.
“I never thought it was going to be busy right away but I think people were ready for this, if you asked me five years ago this wouldn't have beenn a good idea but right now it is what is actually hot,” said Bhakta.
Bhakta is already looking to expand with another ghost kitchen in Port Orange. However he is not giving up on brick and mortar just yet. He is taking two of his ghost kitchen concepts-- Burger 10 and Chicken 10-- and opening a restaurant in One Daytona at the end of the month.