MERIDEN — The pandemic has been particularly difficult for malls and restaurants, which have struggled with creative ways to increase traffic, while keeping customers safe.
Ruby Tuesday at the Meriden Mall is now sharing its kitchen with The Captain’s Boil, a seafood restaurant offering a full menu of crab, crawfish, sausage, shrimp, corn and potato boils for eat-in or delivery. The idea is a new concept for struggling restaurants that requires no additional overhead, personnel or storage costs.
The Captain’s Boil has been available at the mall’s Ruby Tuesday for weeks, and Ruby Tuesdays in Cromwell, Windsor and Lisbon have similar arrangements.
The managing partner of NRD Capital, owner of Ruby Tuesday, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and Frisch’s Big Boy, created Franklin Junction as a platform to facilitate kitchen sharing similar to AirBnb for hotel room sharing.
"The Franklin Junction platform was designed to match excess kitchen capacity with concepts eager to grow their consumer reach," said managing partner Aziz Hashim, in a statement. "In doing so, our team intends to help as many retail locations and brands thrive in this uncertain restaurant reality. We know that today's restaurant consumers appreciate the ease and efficiency of restaurant delivery and have created a platform that enables thousands of restaurants to meet this demand.”
In April 2020, Franklin Junction announced a partnership with Nathan's Famous Inc. to provide fans with ready-to-cook kits and hot-cooked versions of the New York favorites via Franklin Junction's host kitchens across the country. Franklin Junction has now begun rolling out the Nathan's Famous concept via host kitchens, also called ghost kitchens, within Frisch's Big Boy and Ruby Tuesday restaurants across the United States.
In July, Franklin Junction entered into a partnership with food delivery service Grubhub who agreed to fund third-quarter marketing support for The Captain’s Boil and Order XOXO, a chicken wing operation in Oklahoma and Texas. It now has partnerships with DoorDash, Postmates and Uber Eats.
Last month, Franklin Junction added Chicago-based Wow Bao, the fast-casual Asian concept and will launch the Wow Bao menu in 50 plus host kitchens in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Ghost kitchens, virtual restaurants
NRD believes the idea to be low risk for both sides because of the lack of capital spending or branding required of the guest brand in a new market, according to online publication Restaurant Business. If one restaurant’s food doesn’t work well in a host concept, that host concept can move on to something else, and vice versa.
“Before, a kitchen might have had 20% to 30% extra capacity,” Hashim told Restaurant Business. “Now it has 70%.”
Food on Demand, an online publication that delves into the intersection of food and technology, predicts more platforms modeled after Franklin Junction.
“It’s likely that other national restaurant brands — especially full-service, casual chains in the mold of Franklin Junction — will blaze a similar path,” according to Food on Demand.
“The concept of ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants makes so much sense on paper that it’s likely the market will see even more players from the restaurant, commercial real estate and technology worlds, making for an extreme amount of new supply hitting third-party delivery apps in the coming months,” according to Food on Demand.
Franklin Junction now has more than 500 host facilities and 20 plus partner brands, according to the company. It has also expanded to include retailers outside the food industry in need of last mile micro distribution, including hotels and convenience stores.
Although aimed at delivery, The Captain’s Boil menu is available to sit-down diners at Ruby Tuesday in Meriden, a manager said Monday.