[Podcast] The Anti Ghost Kitchen with Kristen Barnett

[Podcast] The Anti Ghost Kitchen with Kristen Barnett
D. J. Costantino

By D. J. Costantino


Ghost kitchens are hot. But that doesn't mean they're for every operator.

Kristen Barnett joins us on this episode of the Restaurant Growth Podcast. Kristen knows ghost kitchens well—and after a stint at Zuul, she went to found her own ghost kitchen, Hungry House. We get into:

  • Ghost kitchen myths
  • When the ghost kitchen model is a good idea for an operator
  • What you need to know to be successful with this restaurant model
  • Why Hungry House is called an “anti” ghost kitchen
  • And more!

Meet Kristen Barnett

Kristen Barnett is the founder & CEO of Hungry House, a NYC-based startup that partners with digitally-native chefs to bring their culinary ideas into reality through the Hungry House platform.

Kristen started her career in the New York City office of The Boston Consulting Group. She unfortunately soon began to struggle with her health after contracting Chronic Lyme disease and she became seriously ill. Desperate to feel better, she turned to dietary change to feel better and she had miraculous results. Determined to make a bigger impact, she left consulting to pursue a career in the food industry. Since then, she's worked at DIG (formerly Dig Inn) where she was Director of Strategic Operations and led supply chain strategy, menu development and their food delivery and ghost kitchen business. Kristen then went on to join Zuul, a ghost kitchen tech startup where she served as Chief Operating Officer and led product strategy to develop a proprietary tech platform and multiple virtual brands. After Zuul was acquired by ghost kitchen competitor, Kitchen United in summer 2021, she went on to found Hungry House. Having borne witness to the explosive growth in the ghost kitchen industry, mainly with a commoditized and unhealthy product offering, she decided to found Hungry House in summer 2021 to create the first direct-to-consumer ghost kitchen company focusing on sustainability, diversity, quality & transparency.

Kristen graduated from Cornell University magna cum laude and is passionate about plant-based eating and supporting other women in the food industry through a semi-regular women-in-food dinner series.

Big Ideas

Ghost kitchens could use a little more hospitality

“It's a story. It's hospitality. It's feeling connected to the why this food's existence. And I felt that. The ghost kitchen industry over indexed on all the amazing supply chain and tech innovations, but forgot why people order food, which is, you know, what, either a cultural connection like us having learned about it through a video on Instagram and or understanding the chef's story and how hard they've worked to get where they are....”

The biggest key to ghost kitchen success is defining your customer

“So I think what's absolutely critical when thinking about ghost kitchens as a solution for your business is defining your customers.

And starting from that point, I've seen a lot of successful ghost kitchen businesses come into existence because they were, maybe had a restaurant and they were offloading a lot of demand that they couldn't handle there, whether it was catering, certain production needs, et cetera. If you need to go and move your production to another place, still accessing customers, but you don't require the front of house experience.

That's a great. Because you're not in the business of acquiring new customers. Now, what also might be a good fit? Let's say if you're a chef, is if you've built a large social following, or if you have a huge email list that wants your products again, defining the customers is just absolutely critical here.

If you are dropping into a dark kitchen and your strategy for customer acquisition is I'm gonna list on the third party apps, I would strongly recommend you don't do that. Okay. It's going to be very difficult to only leverage those platforms for customer acquisition based on the fact. There are an extreme amount of concepts on these platforms.”

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D. J. Costantino
D. J. Costantino

Hi! I'm D.J., 7shifts' resident Content Writer. I come from a family of chefs and have a background in food journalism. I'm always looking for ways to help make the restaurant industry better!