Why You Should Take the Ghost Wing Challenge

Okay, I admit that this is considerably less daring than the Ghost Pepper Wing Challenge (where you eat hospitalization-level spicy wings in a short period of time), BUT the Ghost Wing Challenge is also a useful gauge of where we are going (socially, culinarily) as a society.

The Ghost Wing Challenge (patent pending) is where you open your favorite food delivery app, search for wings, and see how many restaurants you’ve never heard of/seen in real life/don’t sound real pop up in the results.

I tried this experiment out for a piece about ghost kitchens in Marker, which just went up today:

In late January, I put my digital restaurant skills to the test by opening up my Seamless app and searching for wings, perhaps the most popular offering in the virtual kingdom because of their easy portability and high margins…Among the range of wing spots in the northern suburbs just outside of New York City were Neighborhood Wings (operated by Applebee’s), Alfonso’s Wings (a spinoff of a local pizza shop), Chicken Wing King (operated by a local bar), Wings Express (operated by a local diner), and Wings, Mac, & More (a ghost kitchen apparently willing to shlep wings to me all the way from New Jersey). Ultimately, all this research got the best of me and I ordered from Wings of New York, the option with the shortest delivery time.

From its logo and listing on Seamless to the branding and the containers, I would have had no idea that my Wings of New York order had originated in the kitchen of Nathan’s Famous, the venerable Coney Island–born hot dog chain. (From the spread of options on Seamless, only Neighborhood Wings, the Applebee’s spinoff, made the affiliation to its mother brand explicit.) Evidently Nathan’s Famous has long sold wings, but most of us simply don’t associate it with the place… “We felt that wings are something we could do well and build an entire concept around,” James Walker, senior vice president of restaurants at Nathan’s Famous, wrote in an email when I asked about the absence of Nathan’s branding. “The idea of Wings of New York is big enough to be a brand, not just a menu.”

All whimsy aside, chances are, at least one of the results in the Ghost Wing Challenge™ will have the same address as a favorite local bar/diner/pizza place. This is how some tech giants are feasting during the pandemic and it’s also how countless restaurants are trying to make ends meet in a very precarious moment.

Given the success of ghost kitchens and virtual brands and how quickly these new consumer habits are becoming entrenched, this is going to change the way we eat/dine forever. Check out the whole story here.

Today’s Crunchspiration: This limited-edition Valentine kit that maybe you could send me or to someone that you like.

A post shared by Teresa Flores (@notteresa)

Speaking of the future of food, I spoke to Rebecca Tucker, who has a piece yesterday for The Counter about how the pandemic has totally restored the drive-thru as a business feature. This drive-threnaissance isn’t just changing the way that restaurants are doing business right now, it’s changing the industry.

As Tucker points out, Shake Shack and Sweetgreen, two chains that swore up and down that they would never have a drive-thru, are joining the ranks of Chipotle as brands that are now suddenly embracing the drive-thru window. As a result, entire store designs of major chains are being reconfigured for diners to take their food and hit the road. It’s another wild note in these very strange times.

Have you heard about our referral program? If you refer a new subscriber to The Crunchwrap, I will send you a Taco Bell taco.

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Fine print: Crunchy or soft, referrer must have Taco Bell app, void where prohibited (Berkeley).