Kitchen to Kitchen, a New York-based digital restaurant group, launched its second delivery-focused restaurant last month on Aug. 6. The company’s first concept, Meatball Kitchen, which started in March, and the new Sweetbasil Thai Kitchen are headquartered in a central commissary kitchen in Garland, in one of Revolving Kitchen’s 25 commercial cloud kitchens available for rent.
The restaurants are the beginning of five total ghost kitchen concepts the company plans to open in Dallas, the city they chose to establish national operations.
Ghost kitchens, sometimes called dark kitchens or virtual kitchens, refer to a growing business model whereby restaurants exclusively sell food for delivery or carryout. While ghost kitchens have existed for some time, new ghost kitchens have started popping up in Dallas in response to the pandemic, like TLC Vegan Kitchen, ZaLat Pizza, and three new Detroit-style pizzerias.
Kitchen to Kitchen, on the other hand, set their wheels in motion in January, before the pandemic, because as marketing director Ben Green explains, “delivery sucks,” historically. Oftentimes, restaurant food sold to-go isn’t built to withstand a long car ride. It’s also expensive, and not to mention bad for the planet.
Kitchen to Kitchen’s mission is to revamp delivery by selling food designed to be as delicious when opened at dining room tables as it was when it left the kitchen, Green says.
“We imagine an experience that doesn’t make you feel bad for the amount of money spent or the amount of packaging used,” he says.
Deliveries are packed in paper bags with recyclable, reusable to-go containers. Each order includes a personalized, handwritten thank you note. The company’s motto is: hospitality, delivered. “The whole interaction is designed to make customers feel taken care of — because food is an expression of care,” Green says.
In addition to deliveries within 5 miles of Revolving Kitchen in Garland, Kitchen to Kitchen seeks restaurant partners to reach new customers and increase their delivery radius without having to open new locations. The bulk of food preparation is completed by Kitchen to Kitchen’s chefs at Revolving Kitchen and then delivered to restaurants who “put the last mile together,” Green explains. Partnering with Kitchen to Kitchen is a way for restaurants to increase revenue while still selling their own food in whatever way they’re accustomed to doing.
Green says Kitchen to Kitchen’s leadership chose Dallas to test their concepts because “Dallas is America’s greatest food city” with “a lot of talent and discerning palates.”
The company is co-founded by Dean Furbush, formerly the CEO of Fresh Direct. His vision is to prioritize a work culture of respect and sustainability for everyone connected to the company — from contractors to the planet.
“We’re excited to be in Dallas and launching these concepts here first with its core ethos being care, hospitality and unconditional respect across the board, and especially in a city known for its southern hospitality,” Furbush says in a press release.
Thaddeus Duprey is also a Kitchen to Kitchen co-founder and the company’s Chief Product Officer. Before beginning a corporate role at Blue Apron, where he was Director of Quality, Duprey cooked in restaurants including Napa Valley’s Meadowood the year it was awarded three Michelin stars. Duprey is responsible for Kitchen to Kitchen’s recipe development, like the hand rolled meatballs, and he collaborated with Thai chef Nan Bunyasaranand to create Sweetbasil’s menu.
Meatball Kitchen is currently delivering parm-style subs, pastas and comfort food sides to Garland, Lake Highlands, and the Bishop Arts area. Baked meatballs come in three flavors: classic beef and pork, turkey with Calabrian chili peppers, or Impossible “meat.” Penne pasta can be tossed in classic marinara, creamy vodka sauce or mushroom white wine sauce.
Sides that pass the delivery quality test at Meatball Kitchen include “arancini mozz tots,” with white wine risotto and mozzarella cheese filling, along with the popular polenta fries. Green describes the fries as “crispy yet melty, a cross between a french fry and a mozzarella stick.”
The menu at Sweetbasil Thai Kitchen includes “familiar but different” Thai-inspired dishes, according to Green. Options go beyond pad Thai and zestful appetizers like sticky tamarind pork ribs. Unique curries like the vegetable peanut curry is seasoned with clove, mace, cinnamon and cardamom, and accompanied with tiny potatoes, zucchini, peas, chilis and optional protein.
There is also an extra-spicy northern Thai pork rib curry that omits commonly used coconut milk and comes with cashews, pineapple and pork rib pulled from the bone. Instead of traditional white rice, curries can come with Thai purple rice, called Riceberry. For traditionalists, popular takeout dishes like pad Thai, pad see ew, and basil fried rice remain on the menu.
Delivery is offered via GrubHub, Uber Eats, DoorDash and Favor from Revolving Kitchen in Garland, as well from their first restaurant partner, the Local Oak in Bishop Arts, which also sells Meatball Kitchen’s menu.
A New Yorker article titled “Our Ghost Kitchen Future” states, “For restaurants that have already established themselves in the physical world, ghost kitchens can be a way to adapt to shifting trends… Delivery-only kitchens can also work as a sort of triage effort for restaurants that are doing well.”
For Alycen Cuellar, owner of the Local Oak, partnering with Kitchen to Kitchen was “all about good timing.” After surviving three years of construction on the streets outside her restaurant, the pandemic hit. Upon meeting Furbush and visiting the central kitchen where she saw everything being made from scratch, she decided to try offering another menu in addition to her own, which she had been forced to limit due to lack of ingredient availability and unpredictable demand.
Even though she admits it was hard at first to begin selling another company’s product, the extra income stream from Meatball Kitchen is better than what she thought it would’ve been.
As Cuellar says, “The restaurant industry is changing so fast. Innovation is key.”