US | Smoothie Chain Rejects Ghost Kitchen Trend

Tropical Smoothie Cafe's CEO Charles Watson is not planning to open any ghost kitchens. Instead, the smoothie chain is set to open its 1,000th location.

Approximately 35 percent of Tropical Smoothie Cafe's sales come from digital orders - either through the website, app or third-party delivery services - just over a 10 percent increase since pre-pandemic.

Watson expects this figure to increase to more than 50 percent over the next three years.

He said the company has hundreds of new cafes in the pipeline, opening 750 real kitchens.

One major benefit of ghost kitchens is their efficient real estate model due to not needing a dine-in space, customer parking and toilets.

But Tropical Smoothie Cafe's are small anyway. Its cafes average at 1,600 square feet, with seating for 20-30 customers.

Watson doesn't see the benefit of ghost kitchens for Tropical Smoothie and said it would just feel out a new market if they did.

Brands like Noodles & Company and Wendy's have said the same thing; that they will use ghost kitchens as an economical way to test new markets before investing in brick-and-mortar restaurants. Other brands are using ghost kitchens to expand their delivery reach in areas with pre-existing brand recognition.