We’ve gotten word that yet another ghost kitchen (delivery only) has opened on the Upper West Side. Wow Bao is now delivering from and using the kitchen at 269 Columbus Avenue, between 72nd and 73rd Streets, which is also the location of Harvest Kitchen.
“Wow Bao offers fast Asian street food—bao, pan-seared potstickers, steamed dumplings, rice & noodle bowls, hearty soups, fresh salads, and specialty drinks such as our fresh ginger ale,” the eatery’s website states.
The trend of ghost kitchens has been apparent on the Upper West Side, with the recent launches of City Dumpling and Dumpling Galaxy. In addition, a delivery and take-out only spot called Skyooerd, serving Japanese skewers of meat, fish and veggies, has opened at 446 Columbus Ave.
Ghost kitchens have been expanding around the country in the last year, but the trend began before the pandemic rattled the restaurant industry. A November 2019 article published by restaurantdive.com noted that CloudKitchens, a company founded by former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, had landed a $400 million investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, giving it a potential market value of $5 billion. “CloudKitchens buys cheap real estate and builds shared kitchens for restaurants to rent. It also runs its own delivery-only restaurants,” the report stated.
An October 20 report by the Wall Street Journal states that CloudKitchens has spent over $130 million in real estate, “acquiring closed restaurants, auto-body shops and warehouses for use in his new ghost kitchen venture.”
While this trend appears to have started gaining ground before the pandemic, it does appear to have accelerated since COVID-19 entered our lives, whether or not as a direct result of it.
The immediate and long-term future of NYC’s restaurant scene is hard to predict. As the pandemic has caused so many to close, innovative models are allowing new ones to test the market with limited risk.
Regardless, New Yorkers, at least a good percentage of them, will want to continue to enjoy full dining experiences, as in actually going out to restaurants. With the recent rise in COVID rates, we’ll have to see if the 25% indoor dining capacity will remain intact (or even increase to 50%), and if the heat lamps will have the ability to keep outdoor diners warm through winter.