Here at Food & Drink Resources (FDR) we’ve heard from many-a-brand about their forthcoming ghost kitchen concepts. There seems to be a clear pattern in what has arrived and what will be arriving at a commissary near you: nostalgic comfort food with a twist.
In times when life is unpredictable and the dining experience can be uncomfortable, consumers are craving familiar flavors and at the same time craving dishes that they can’t (or won’t) make at home. Through all of our research, we’ve narrowed it down to three promising areas for ghost kitchen brands: cheesesteaks, meatballs, and noodles.
Get this: 50% of Americans over 20-years-old eat an average of one sandwich a day. About the same number of millennials say that sandwiches (not burgers) are a favorite food. Another stat we found says 300 million sandwiches are eaten every day in the United States.
Clearly, there is more to sandwiches than cheesesteaks, but we’re seeing a lot of restaurants amping up their sandwich menu offerings – and it often includes a cheesesteak. Why? Because what’s more comforting than melty cheese on warm bread?
We’ve been writing about the rise of the meatball for a decade. It hasn’t even plateaued yet. What we love about “the ball” is that it can be easily adapted to include any type of meat, herb, spice, or vegetable. Yes, vegan and vegetarian balls are also popular.
Some of our favorites include
– Traditional pork meatballs
– Salmon croquette meatballs
-Buffalo chicken meatballs
-Quinoa and black bean meatballs
You can prepare a meatball by baking, braising, grilling, or frying. It’s no wonder it is the darling dish for many brands from quick-serve to fine dining. Plus, meatballs travel well.
There is a traditional noodle dish for many, many cultures. Even Americans adopted spaghetti and macaroni and made it their own. The familiarity of it makes it a staple comfort food.
However, today we are talking Asian noodle dishes that are flavor-filled and can be great on a snowy night or great on a hot day, or ideal for brunch. We’re talking pho, ramen, pad thai, udon, and soba. Each one of these noodles was near impossible to find on a mainstream restaurant menu a decade or two ago. Now, they are prepared dishes at your local Kroger delis and Whole Foods Markets.
Like meatballs, noodle dishes are easily adaptable (and some appeal to those with special diets). Many chefs of small restaurants capitalize on Asian noodle dishes by keeping them just familiar enough to entice the American palate but then including a unique twist to pique curiosity and scratch the itch “to try something new,” something you aren’t likely to have at home.