More restaurants and ghost kitchens popping up during pandemic

Ghost Kitchens Popping up on the Suncoast

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - It’s been a rough year for the food business. Statistics from the National Restaurant Association show that more than 100,000 restaurants around the country shut their doors due to the pandemic. But as our tastes have pivoted from brick-and-mortar bars and grilles, the ghost kitchen concept is seemingly popping up everywhere.

Nowadays, it’s unusual to see a new restaurant open its doors, but Kojo is beating the odds.

“The idea for this restaurant started around three months ago,” said Natalia Levy, co-owner of Kojo.

A rarity in the middle of the pandemic.

“It’s been hard on everybody,” she said.

Levy is known for owning Speaks Clam Bar in St. Armands and Lakewood Ranch. This week, she put on together the finishing touches to welcome her customers at her new restaurant in the heart of Downtown Sarasota.

“This is a Pan-Asian inspired concept, we taken inspirations from different countries,” she said.

She’s not the only one, Mr. Flavortown himself, Guy Fieri, opened up a delivery-only restaurant -- known as a ghost kitchen -- and one of them is in Sarasota. But some restaurant owners from the area tell me while Fieri has helped out smaller restaurants across the country, this pop-up is not helping the little guys.

“The restaurant world is up for grabs right now,” said consumer correspondent Jerry Zivic.

We spoke to Chef Paul Mattison, owner of Mattison’s Restaurants. In a text, he said he has looked into these so-called ghost kitchens even before COVID, but it’s not something he’s moving forward with, at least for now. But for consumer experts, it’s part of the present and the future.

“The world of eating out has changed forever. Restaurants that are only going to be take-out restaurants are in a strong position moving forward,” said Zivic.

But for owners like Levy, that concept is not stopping her from serving her customers at their table.

“I hope to grow in the months and years ahead,” she said.

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