Online Ordering Boom Gives Rise to Virtual Restaurants

FILE - In this Feb. 6, 2019, photo, Tyler Schwecke, a delivery driver for Jimmy John's, makes a delivery in Las Vegas. Despite pressure from third-party apps, a few big chains continue to use their own drivers, and they’re hiring. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

NEW YORK (AP) – The growing popularity of online ordering is giving rise to virtual restaurants, conceived only for delivery or take out.

Many restaurant owners are whipping up dishes in their own kitchens that can only be accessed through third-party delivery apps like Grubhub and UberEats. Other restaurants are expanding their footprint with “ghost kitchens,” where food is prepared for online orders only.

The trend seeks to capitalize on the $26.8 billion online ordering market, the fastest-growing source of restaurant sales in the U.S., according to the NDP group. It also speaks to the power of third-party delivery apps, which have transformed expectations for speed and convenience. In many cases, those same platforms are extending their influence from how people get their food to what should go on the menu.

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