“Ghost Kitchens” are Replacing McDonald’s and Subway in U.S. Walmart Stores. Are They the Wave of the Future?

Joel Eisenberg

While some Walmart locations are installing other fast food chains including Taco Bell, Nathan’s Famous, and Domino's, the new food market concept is being tested in select domestic locations.

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Ghost KitchensCostco.com

Author’s Note

This article is free of bias, and is based on corporate postings and media reports. All linked information within this article is fully-attributed to the following entities: Danielle Balbi of The Wall Street Journal, QuerySprout.com, SupermarketNews.com, GhostKitchenBrands.com, and Wikipedia.org.

Introduction

In a recent NewsBreak article, entitled “McDonald’s in Walmart and Starbucks in Target: Are Chain Partnerships Expected to Thrive or Discontinue?” I shared the following April, 2021 anecdote from The Wall Street Journal’s Danielle Balbi in reference to recent McDonald’s closings within Walmart stores: Just 150 of the Golden Arches’ Walmart locations across the country will remain — down from 500 at the start of 2020 and a peak of roughly 1,000. The two chains began working together in 1994, but in recent years their strategies have diverged. McDonald’s began closing stores in 2002 to focus on its product and image. And Walmart began renovating its stores, leaving the McDonald’s looking dated.

According to a 2022 Query Sprout update, though, in their piece titled “What Is Replacing Mcdonald’s in Walmart? (All You Need to Know),” the long-term plan is for the remainder of the McDonald’s stores within the Walmart chain to be entirely discontinued.

From the article: Restaurants like Taco Bell, Domino’s, Saladworks, Wow Bao, and Nathan’s Famous are replacing McDonald’s locations inside Walmart stores as of 2022. Walmart and McDonald’s are ending their business partners because of the decrease of in-store foot traffic, increase in drive-thru McDonald’s orders, and a spike in Walmart’s eCommerce sales.

There is, however, another Walmart replacement in process for the iconic golden arches, one not mentioned by the Query Sprout piece but presently being tested in select locations. They are called “Ghost Kitchens” — the company’s brand name is “Ghost Kitchens Brand” — and indications are they will soon control a sizable chunk of Walmart’s dining experience.

On New Walmart Food Centers

Supermarket News was among the first to report on the new concept, in their September, 2021 piece by Russell Redman titled “Walmart Opens First U.S. Ghost Kitchens Foodservice Location.”

As excerpted from the article: The Ghost Kitchens service enables Walmart shoppers to select food and beverages from the menus of up to 25 national and regional restaurant and CPG food concepts and combine them into a single order. Customers place their orders via touchscreen kiosks and then receive a receipt via text, followed by another text when their order is ready, allowing them to shop while their order is prepared. Menus also can be downloaded onto mobile devices via QR codes located alongside the kiosks. The Ghost Kitchens sites also serve as delivery hubs for the restaurant and foodservice brands via third-party delivery services such as DoorDash and Uber Eats.

For further information on the Ghost Kitchens concept, information can be found on their website, GhostKitchensBrand.com.

The company is not exclusive to Walmart, and they mention in their official Mission Statement that their goal is to open a Ghost Kitchen every 12 kilometers, and for delivery options to have food for their consumers within 30 minutes.

Note that Wikipedia reserves a page on ghost kitchens in general. See here for a history of the term and concept.

Conclusion

The times have changed, and pre-pandemic standard business practice has changed along with it.

The passage of time will also inform how Walmart customers respond to the new additions, including both the new chains and the Ghost Kitchen Brands entities.

Thank you for reading.

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I am an award-winning author, screenwriter for film and television, and producer. My mission on News Break is to share socially important perspectives on both culture and pop-culture. Member of PEN America, and the WGA.

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