The City Kitch: Even Kitchen Design Starts with Brand Alignment

This year, we’ve had the pleasure of working within an emerging trend in the foodservice industry: ghost kitchens. Made more popular by the pandemic, ghost kitchens are shared kitchen spaces that allow multiple concepts to develop and sell their cuisine to consumers without the expenses of a traditional stand-alone brick and mortar.  

Our design philosophy ensures that each element of your foodservice concept tells the story of who you are, reaches the audience you want, and delivers an experience that meets your brand’s high standards. Sometimes this is relatively straightforward; with ghost kitchens it can be a challenge. For The City Kitch (TCK), it was crucial to clearly understand their brand and target audiences because they are essentially talking to two audiences: tenants and food customers.

The City Kitch (TCK) is a ghost kitchen concept with limited customer seating. When they approached us about redesigning the lobby of their Charlotte - West End location, we realized that there was an opportunity to clarify their branding, positioning and market differentiation to ensure alignment across their leadership before we proceeded into the design process.

The Challenges

TCK had recently been acquired by a new ownership group and was going through an evaluation of its assets. It needed clarity on its core audiences, its ideal customers, and what products / services were most meaningful to this audience. TCK wanted to ensure its branding met its long-term goals and could ensure maximum profitability with impactful investments. The company was struggling in a gray area between a ghost kitchen and food hall, without clearly understanding what was truly driving the concept.

 To top it all off, it had received some media coverage which seemed to muddy the waters even further on what differentiated them from the growing “lower cost” ghost kitchen market.

Our Process to Align Branding and Design

Once our team identified what was needed, we set out a vigorous Brand Discovery Process for TCK. The goals were simple but crucial: identify who their target audience is and why TCK should be their go-to spot for kitchen space and unique food experiences.

We developed a positioning statement to provide a timeless definition of TCK and what tenants and guests love about the brand:

The City Kitch is built for foodies, by foodies, and with the ultimate “food-preneur” in mind. Whether you are a start-up, a master chef, or fall somewhere in between, we have the flexible kitchen space, resources and community you need to help you make your concept the best in the market.

We also worked closely with their leadership to develop a brand story, pillars, and target audiences and then helped align everyone on these values. Our team also assisted the company in understanding their positioning in the marketplace and understanding how TCK fit into the landscape against growing competition.

 The second part of our strategic process, prior to actually designing, was to evaluate their operation to look for opportunities for efficiency and cost savings. Through this process, we:

    • Evaluated their tenants’ core processes to increase efficiencies: product receiving, breakdown, storage, prep, storage, cook & packaging, and finally shipping or customer pick-up
    • Clearly defined a user-friendly multi-tenant food pick-up process for guests and 3rd party delivery drivers
    • Created additional opportunities for leasable space for varied types of tenants
    • Analyzed equipment layouts and adjacencies to minimize utility rough-in & infrastructure costs

The Results of Strategic Design

With a clearly defined message around positioning and branding, we were able to recommend effective designs for the lobby of their West End location. Using this clear brand “language” for the look of the building, we provided designs that maximized their leasable space while providing a streamlined carry-out experience for guests and third-party delivery drivers. This in-turn will provide more value to their tenants and create more opportunities for them to market their kitchens effectively.

We were able to help them create 12% more monetizable space out of the same square footage. We also clearly defined user experiences and created flows which optimized their space and made the customer experience more “user friendly and enjoyable.”

Simply put, this alignment of branding and design helps set TCK up to outcompete other ghost kitchens in the market.

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