The meeting was called to assess the effect of the growth of ‘ghost kitchens’ on traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants as well as the news of the practice by several delivery service platforms of listing restaurant’s details on their platform without the restaurants’ permission.
While many restaurateurs present supported the ‘virtual kitchen’ concept – that is a kitchen facility that is an extension of bricks and mortar restaurant that supports delivery service, but not the ‘ghost kitchen’ concept, a kitchen that serves food for delivery, with no real restaurant attached.
Postmates, Grubhub, and DoorDash came under criticism for listing restaurants without their knowledge.
“It’s thuggish behaviour,” said chef Pim Techamuanvivit, who owns the Michelin-starred Thai restaurant Kin Khao in Union Square. Techamuanvivit tweeted last month about Grubhub listing her restaurant without her knowledge or permission, which allowed an imposter to serve food under her restaurant’s name.
“They basically say, ‘Well, you really want to do this with us because if you don’t, your customers won’t be happy with you,’” she said. Grubhub at the time said the listing was in error.
Vikrum Aiyer, Postmates’ vice president of global public policy, was the only representative of a delivery company who spoke at the hearing. He said that the issue should be sorted between business and not through legislation.
“The legislation that has gone on in San Francisco has killed our restaurants and now we literally have ghosts roaming around”
Commissioner William Ortiz-Cartagena
Restaurateurs responded that they should not have to opt-out of a service that they never signed up for in the first place.
Complaints were made that virtual or ghost kitchens may not be subject to the same requirements that real restaurants face and therefore have an unfair advantage.
The restaurant industry in San Francisco has come under increased pressure with many, even well-known establishment closing.
Anjan Mitra, co-owner of Dosa, a Fillmore Street restaurant said that the city needs to look at the larger issues affecting physical restaurants: city policies, high costs and scarcity of labor.
“You can’t solve the symptom of an issue,” he said. “Regulating virtual kitchens is not going to help brick-and-mortar restaurants.”
Mitra, who works with a venture-backed commissary kitchen called Virtual Kitchen Co., said delivery was “a force that’s coming.”
Commissioner William Ortiz-Cartagena said, “The legislation that has gone on in San Francisco has killed our restaurants and now we literally have ghosts roaming around”.