By Allergen Bureau

How can ghost kitchens manage food allergen challenges?

The popularity of ghost kitchens – sometimes called dark, virtual or cloud kitchens – increased dramatically in Australia and many other parts of the world during COVID-19 lockdowns. These kitchen facilities exclusively prepare meals for takeaway or delivery, interacting with clients primarily via an app. Often, multiple restaurants or food service outlets share a single production kitchen with staff preparing meals from extensive menu offerings in a busy, high throughput setting.

In the US, ghost kitchens are currently an estimated $43 billion industry, with predictions this will rise to $71.4 billion by 2027. The number and scale of ghost kitchens has reportedly also increased across Australia, buoyed by the aggressive growth strategies of online food app companies such as Deliveroo and Uber EATS.

Quality assurance and food safety protocols that apply to the traditional restaurant kitchen also apply in a ghost kitchen, however with multiple business partners, the fast pace, and limited client interface, some traditional kitchen challenges may be amplified in ghost kitchen settings.

A recent article on the Modern Restaurant Management website offers some suggestions for avoiding food safety breaches in ghost kitchens.

Among other tips, the article recommends designating prep areas where foods from multiple menus can be prepared without the risk of cross-contact from major food allergens. Use of clean and sanitised utensils to prepare ‘allergy-friendly’ foods and packing such meals in separate containers for delivery is also suggested. Staff allergen training is touched upon, including nominating responsibility for providing accurate food allergy information for customers who ask for it.

Understanding the food safety policies of all suppliers and other partners using premises, as well as using software solutions to manage supplier certifications are other tips offered that apply to allergen management.

Allergen Bureau resources that might help ghost kitchen operators improve their allergen management can be found here.