Ghost restaurants surge, adjust the traditional format

Peter+Smedley%2F+NW%0AGHOST+GRUB--+Nikkis+Snack+Dispatch+operates+out+of+the+currently+closed+Outlanders.+Both+restaurants+are+co-owned+by+Nichole+Klingler%0A

Peter Smedley/ NW GHOST GRUB– Nikki’s Snack Dispatch operates out of the currently closed Outlanders. Both restaurants are co-owned by Nichole Klingler

Peter Smedley

The term ‘ghost restaurant’ would be foreign to anyone a year ago. With many restaurants and local businesses struggling to keep their doors open, this new style has become an unlikely pivot in the industry. Marquette recently had a MrBeast Burger ghost restaurant pop up, operating out of Hudson’s Classic Grill and Bar, but a closer to home option has been flourishing since late summer of 2020.

Nikki’s Snack Dispatch, locally co-owned by Nichole Klingler, who also owns Outlanders, runs the ghost kitchen outside of Outlander’s current hours. The decision to open the ghost restaurant was largely due to COVID-19, according to Klingler).

“Last summer when the COVID-19 restrictions started we were trying to find another revenue stream. We had read about ghost kitchens, so we looked into it and we decided to open up our ghost kitchen and here we are in February,” Klingler said.

The difference in menu between Outlanders and Nikki’s Snack Dispatch is stark. Outlanders focused on a dinner menu, while Nikki’s Snack Dispatch is primarily fast food oriented with the unique taste and ingredients of the Outlander’s menu. Klingler shares how the two restaurants differ outside of the menu. 

“Outlanders is the restaurant we have, it’s very family-oriented, from scratch food. Nikki’s is a completely different concept,” Klingler said. “It’s completely different, but not really. I don’t have to worry about a dining room, we don’t have an actual storefront, there’s no signage anywhere. All of our transactions are online, we’re actually going exclusively through DoorDash, there’s not really any cash we’re handling. In that respect it’s different.”

While business has been more successful than anticipated, Klingler stated that she misses the customers and connections made with regulars. 

“ I like to interact with the customers. I like to have that feedback from people, the engagement that you get, the kinda relationship you create with a customer when you have a normal restaurant setting. We have regular customers that order every week. I recognize their names when they pop up but I have no idea what these people look like. That’s the part I miss about working in a restaurant that you don’t get with a ghost kitchen, the lack of customer interaction,” Klingler said.

The mystery surrounding ghost restaurants sometimes leads to confusion. Klingler often gets comments on facebook, or calls asking whether the restaurant actually exists. That mystery is part of the excitement that goes along with running a restaurant without a storefront.

“The mystery is kinda fun, we’ve decided to embrace it, because there’s no storefront people are a little leery at first, but we’ve tied it a little bit to outlanders and people know what that is. Overall it hasn’t been too much of an issue, if anything it adds a little mystery to it and intrigue.”

The addition of Nikki’s Snack Dispatch has had a significant positive impact in a time where many businesses and restaurants are struggling. 

“We’re a local business, even though the food is definitely in the fast food category we still have from scratch elements to it. All the taco meat we season on our own, we fry our own tortilla chips, we slow roast the pork in-house. It’s not just straight out of a bag for a lot of things, it has a unique taste to it because it’s us, it’s our recipes,” Klingler said. “Thank you for supporting local businesses, Outlanders and Nikki’s. Local businesses are having a hard time with the covid restrictions and it’s nice to see the support.”
To order from Nikki’s Snack Dispatch look them up on the DoorDash app. Also find them on Facebook, on their website, or call (906) 225-0946