Abandoned malls—aka dead malls, aka ghost malls, both of which are contenders for the name of my new metal band—are some of the strangest phenomena of late-capitalist 21st-century America. The mall thrived in a time when capital congealed in the suburbs and shopping happened IRL and the middle class was a thing. Post-financial crisis, scores of massive shopping complexes stand hollow across America. Until now, apparently. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, ghost kitchens are starting to set up shop in abandoned malls, in the ghost x ghost crossover even we’ve all been waiting for.
Ghost kitchens, the eateries of the “virtual kitchen model,” are restaurants set up exclusively for online delivery. There’s no seating at ghost kitchens, nor can anyone walk in and order takeout. They’re all cooking up food for services like GrubHub, UberEats, DoorDash, and the like. Ghost kitchens can be extensions of existing restaurants, or brand-new eateries whose entire business comes from delivery orders. Several ghost kitchens can exist within one physical space. So, it’s possible to order Greek and Mexican and Japanese food from three unique restaurants on Seamless, and they’re all being cooked up in the same place. The bonus for owners is that since no one’s dining in, the kitchen locations can be in less than ideal (read: cheap) real estate. For example, abandoned malls.
Hospitality company SBE Entertainment Group, along with retail developer Simon Property Group and hotelier Accor, is planning to open around 200 delivery-only kitchens by the end of 2021. According to WSJ, those kitchens will be in unused retail spaces, storage areas, and mall parking lots. I don’t understand the parking lot part, but okay. “It’s relooking at all real estate that is obsolete,” said Sam Nazarian, CEO of SBE.
Pitch: a reboot of The Blair Witch Project, equally terrifying as the 1999 flick. But this one is a bunch of VSCO girls wandering erstwhile centers of American capital and encountering, at the film’s terrifying climax, an impenetrable Wendy’s kitchen, fully staffed.