More US Restaurants Remove Dining Areas

    27 November, 2019

    Dining rooms are disappearing from restaurants in the United States, as Americans increasingly use apps to order food.

    One example is the new Chopt Creative Salad Company restaurant, which opened last week in New York City. It is unlike any of the company's other 61 restaurants. It has no cash registers or dining tables.

    Atlanta-based restaurant Chick-fil-A has similar locations in two cities: Nashville, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky. Customers order and prepay online. They can either go to the store for their meal or have it sent to them.

    Chick-fil-A is also trying something different. The company has announced plans to set up three "delivery kitchens." In all three, Chick-fil-A will share space with other restaurants to prepare food for delivery only.

    Workers prepare orders in the kitchen at a Chopt Creative Salad Co., location in midtown Manhattan, in New York City, U.S., November 12, 2019.
    Workers prepare orders in the kitchen at a Chopt Creative Salad Co., location in midtown Manhattan, in New York City, U.S., November 12, 2019.

    Digital orders are a major growth area for fast-food and fast-casual restaurant chains. More are turning to these dark, or ghost, kitchens to cut costs.

    Wendy's, another fast-food business, announced last month that it aimed to open two "dark kitchens" by the end of the year.

    Some food delivery-only operations in New York and San Francisco have failed in recent years.

    But in January, Travis Kalanick's CloudKitchens got a $400 million investment from Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, Reuters reported. Kalanick is a co-founder of ride service Uber. The Wall Street Journal first reported the investment earlier this month.

    CloudKitchens, founded in 2016, builds shared food preparation areas for delivery-only restaurants to rent.

    Julie Atkinson is the Chief Marketing Officer for Chopt. She says the company offered pick-up and delivery orders soon after it opened 18 years ago. Today those orders make up nearly make up nearly half of its business at larger restaurants, she said.

    "We are sensing a really huge customer need for speed, for convenience," she said. "We're hopeful that this concept really raises the bar on customer convenience."

    On November 5, coffee house Starbucks opened its first Starbucks pickup store in the United States for online orders. The new store is similar to some new Starbucks stores in China, where digital ordering is more common.

    I'm John Russell.

    Hilary Russ reported on this story for Reuters. John Russell adapted the story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    app – n. a computer software program for a smartphone or other electronic device

    delivery – n. the act of transporting something to someone

    casual – adj. easygoing; unofficial

    ghost n. the spirit or presence of a dead person

    fund n. a financial or investment program

    rent – v. paying someone for the use of something

    customer – n. someone who purchases a product or service

    convenience - n. a quality or situation that makes something easy or useful for someone by reducing the amount of work or time required to do something

    concept - n. an idea of what something is or how it works

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