By Brandon Burton, in partnership with Chamber Chat Podcast
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Ghost communities are on their way due to the innovation of ghost kitchens that emerged through the COVID pandemic. This concept allows for customers to order food delivery from popular apps like Uber Eats and Grub Hub. However, rather than having the food prepared in a standard restaurant, brands are learning to cut costs by opening ghost kitchens.
A ghost kitchen allows for the restaurant to utilize less expensive real estate. Some restaurants will even share this ghost kitchen with other restaurants. They also can be hired to prepare food for other restaurants.
When I first learned of this concept, I thought this is a genius way for restaurants to save money, become more efficient, and create a whole new dining experience. I still believe these initial thoughts to be true, but I have started to have some reservations around this concept.
I recently read an article about grocery chains adopting this same type of model with ghost warehouses. Many people have now experienced either grocery delivery or at least store pick up of their groceries. These concepts allow a customer to “shop” for their groceries online and never have to walk into the grocery store. I know this can be a huge time saver for the busy people in society.
As I picture the idea of a ghost warehouse or grocery store, I picture a large warehouse with no windows. I picture endless shelves of food that doesn’t even have to be displayed well because after all, an employee is the one grabbing the items from the shelf. I imagine this would look very similar to an Amazon distribution center. The marketing of food companies would have to change entirely. We will become much more a target of even more digital ads from the food manufacturers for us to add their items to our online shopping cart..
While I see some utility and innovations around these concepts, the thought that rings loud in my mind is that we are killing our communities! This thought probably is top of mind for me after my recent podcast interview with Doug Griffiths about his book ‘13 Ways to Kill Your Community‘.
Human interactions at the market and sitting to break bread with others are what we as humans have done our entire existence. Oftentimes it is while sharing a meal that we collaborate and solve problems with colleagues, friends, and family. It is running into your child’s school teacher at the grocery store that makes your child feel special as they are able to have a one-on-one interaction with their teacher outside of the classroom. It is the smile that a stranger receives that makes their day and builds just a little more confidence.
This idea of turning into ghost communities is exaggerated even more as we hear more talk and adoption of the Metaverse. Again, I see some great possibilities and potential with this type of technology, but I wonder if we might be overlooking the potential negative side effects. I am a big fan of cryptocurrency, especially Bitcoin, but I am concerned about other applications utilizing the blockchain without having a better understanding of the potential outcomes, positive or negative.
The Metaverse can be a place where the playing field is leveled. Certain biases can be left behind the screen as users on the inside don’t know much about your real identity. Disabilities can be overcome in this alternate world. Race, gender, age are all non-factors in the Metaverse. These can all be viewed as really positive selling points.
I would also argue that these identifying qualities are also what make us who we are. If we are constantly checking and putting aside our true identity, what does that do to our overall mental state? This question is probably better addressed by a mental health professional. I foresee this causing big problems in society.
I hear many people say that if they could go back in time and do it over again, they never would have joined any social media. Social media was started or presented as a way to stay connected with others. Over time we have seen social media lead more to the division of people rather than a unifying force.
Social media has been attributed to a sharp increase in mental health issues, including depression. Comparing ourselves to others can lead to damaging self-esteem. Throughout human history, people have been limited to comparing themselves to others in their tribe or communities. As the Pandora’s box of social media has been opened wide, we are now pitted against others on a much larger scale. Social media influencers do a great job of making us feel less than what we should. Photo filters literally create the image of something that is not even real, yet we still compare ourselves to these artificial attributes of others!
The point of all of this is to say as a society, we need to be aware of the potential negative consequences of drastically changing our way of life. We should have discussions in our community, within our families about possible implications and go in eye wide open. As a chamber of commerce professional, you understand the value of community. You understand the power in numbers. Please lead these discussions in your communities. If nothing else, help others to be aware of what they are getting into before our cities and towns become ghost communities.