- Ghost Kitchens opened a restaurant inside a Walmart in Rochester, New York.
- I tested it out, ordering food from the kiosks.
- Ghost Kitchens don’t need as many workers as a standard fast-food restaurant.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Ghost Kitchens just opened its first Walmart location in the US in Rochester, New York, so I went to test it out.
The “revolutionary food court,” as the sign calls it, was located right by Walmart’s entrance, behind the stacks of carts.
Signs around the entrance advertised some of the brands sold inside, including Cinnabon and Yogen Fruz.
Inside, the restaurant was an open space with white walls, and not much else.
A TV on the wall cycles through ads for the brands served by Ghost Kitchens.
At the front of the restaurant, there’s a counter where workers come out to hand out orders. Customers can also choose to pay there.
The display case at the counter has Cinnabons, cookies, cheesecake, and other desserts.
A Costa coffee station sits right behind the counter, with paper cups, carafes of coffee, and flavored syrups.
I could also just barely see back into the kitchen, where the General Manager told me there were five workers at the time I was there, about 7 p.m. on a Tuesday.
After scoping out the entire restaurant, it was finally time to order. I went to use one of the touch screen kiosks, which revert to ads when not in use.
The screen showed all the brands you could order from, including Kraft, Taco Tea, Quizno’s and about 20 others.
You can select any restaurant from the screen to see its expanded menu.
I started by checking out the menu for Wings of New York, because my home of Western New York is the home of Buffalo wings and they’re a staple in the region.
Most menu items take you to another screen for customizations, like sauces or sides. I was pleased to see Bleu Cheese as an option here, a must for wings.
There was a huge variety of food across the menu, so I tried to sample a little bit of a lot of different menus to get a good sense of the Ghost Kitchens concept as a whole.
Some parts of the menu were straightforward adaptations of restaurants like Cinnabon, while I’ve never seen a Kraft restaurant before.
In the end I ordered wings, bao, pierogies, Kraft Mac and Cheese bites, and a Cinnabon for $US58 ($AU80).
As I went to checkout and pay, the kiosk tried to upsell me on other menu items. The technology didn’t seem as sophisticated as, say, a McDonald’s menu board at predicting what else I’d order, but I could definitely see that a possibility in the future.
With the order done, I could pay right at the same screen.
Conveniently, there are a few ways to pay, including Apple Pay and standard credit cards.
I chose to pay with a credit card, and the large screen pointed me to the small pin pad next to it.
The process worked smoothly, with no need for workers to intervene or fix and mishaps that I sometimes see happening in fast food restaurants with kiosks like this.
Then, you have the option to add in your phone number to get a receipt by text. I wanted my receipt so I did it, but I didn’t love the idea of having my personal number displayed in huge text that could be read across the room by anyone.
Finally, the kiosk gives a short code associated with your order.
I also got a text when my food was ready. My order took longer than a typical fast-food wait, but I can see how it would be convenient if you were shopping in Walmart and picking up the order on your way out.
I got my order packed in a bag and I took it home, excited to try it.
Each item was individually packaged in similar cardboard boxes.
Upon opening the boxes, I was impressed by how everything smelled and looked.
The bao, which came in two flavors, were one of the highlights, and I’d get them again.
They had a hearty amount filling.
I was most surprised by the wings, which were delicious and not too saucy with a dry rub.
They even came with a small tinfoil wrapper of celery, which I thought was a nice touch.
The Mac-And-Cheese Bites were good, but I wish I’d gotten more of them and less of the topping.
The “Canadian style” pierogies were definitely an odd combination, with poutine-inspired toppings, but oddly enough they worked.
Overall, the food was better than I expected, but prices were definitely high for the fast-food world. I can imagine convenience being a deciding factor in customers stopping at this location if they’re already in Walmart or need to meet the tastes of several different people.
This is definitely a fortuitous time for Ghost Kitchens to be expanding as fast-food chains struggle to hire enough workers to stay open. Ghost Kitchens still require workers to prepare the food, but less labor goes towards interacting with customers, and a few employees can make the equivalent of several restaurants’ worth of food.
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