By Kevin Collison
There’s an international food festival occurring in a quiet corner of the East Crossroads several blocks removed from the microbrewery scene and if it’s hard to find, don’t worry, it’s already well known to Door Dash and Uber Eats drivers.
The Crossroads Food Stop, a virtual food hall at 1600 Campbell, has been in operation since October and its more than a dozen “ghost kitchens” are preparing meals to-go from all over the culinary map from India and Thailand to Mexico and Africa.
What’s also known as a virtual food hall is the latest outpost of California-based CloudKitchens. The concept began on the West Coast around 2017 and is opening in major metros including Kansas City.
Restaurants ranging from established brick-and-mortar places such as Old Shawnee Pizza and Mad Jack’s seafood to startups including Nang Nang lease kitchens in the nondescript building.
There are 22 kitchen spaces ranging in size from 200 square-feet to 265 square-feet. All come equipped with a prep sink and ventilation hood. The food entrepreneurs bring in their own stoves and other food prep equipment.
Some of the larger kitchens feature walk-in coolers and there is a larger, central commercial cooler and freezer available to operators. The rent includes utilities and a regular kitchen cleanup service.
John Carrazco, the operations manager, said the the spaces are about 65 percent occupied with five kitchens still remaining. He said the location in a relatively obscure corner of the Crossroads worked well because of its affordability and proximity to greater downtown.
“Foot traffic is not important,” he said. “The majority of our customers are within the delivery distance of Door Dash and Uber Eats.”
Customers order their meals online and the virtual food hall has an arrangement with the virtual delivery services to pick up the meals in its lobby and deliver them.
Walk-in customers are welcome as well and can order from a kiosk in the lobby and have their carryout meal brought to the counter.
The virtual food hall option has proven popular both with established restaurants who want a downtown outpost and start-ups.
“A place like Old Shawnee Pizza with an established name can hit the ground running and others are able to develop their customer base,” Carrazco said.
The hours when Crossroads Food Stop support staff handle orders at the front lobby are from 11 a.m. to as late as 2 a.m. on weekends. Individual restaurant operators can extend those hours if they choose to bring the meals out for pick-up themselves.
At this point, there are no alcoholic beverages available.
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