the hill food co. photo by iain shaw

The Hill Food Co ghost kitchen collective now open in St. Louis

The concept of ghost kitchens, spaces without dining areas where chefs can prepare their wares for pickup or delivery, have exploded in popularity, especially in the wake of Covid-19. Some culinary entrepreneurs are able to access kitchen space at existing restaurants, but there is a growing trend of dedicated commercial ghost kitchens, like The Hill Food Co, which opened quietly last month at 2360 Hampton Ave. 

Owned by a company called Cloud Kitchens, the facility can host more than 20 concepts and offers new and established culinary entrepreneurs an easy, low-cost alternative to opening a dedicated brick-and-mortar space. According to The Hill Food Co website, six concepts are currently set up at the facility.

Orders can be placed via the website, or at a kiosk located at the location. Restaurant clients can also use delivery services like Uber Eats, Door Dash, Grub Hub and their own websites for ordering. 

Angel Requejo, co-owner of The Req Room in Overland and Jose'penos in O’Fallon, has both of his concepts represented at the facility.

“We were just looking for a way to expand what we had to offer,” Requejo said. “It seemed like a really low-cost version of what we already do that would put our food in a new market.” He said he also hopes the location to drive business to his stand-alone restaurants.

“We didn’t have a location in that area. It was a way to see how much business we could generate with a small investment,” said Rick White, owner and CEO of Bandanas Bar-B-Q, which also has space at The Hill Food Co.

Requejo, whose restaurants share a kitchen space, said the kitchen is fully equipped and has access to refrigerators and freezer storage. 

“They’re small, but they’re just big enough to do what you have to do,” he said of the kitchen areas. Requejo said The Hill Food Co takes care all the big-ticket items associated with opening a traditional restaurant, like hood installation, construction and plumbing. He said the company also took care of the required mechanical inspections and even assisted in helping him get his business license and health department inspections set up.

“Opening a restaurant, you’re easily going to spend somewhere between $100,000 and $500,000, where here, we got up and running for less than $20,000,” said Requejo, adding that he already had a lot of equipment in storage, which also helped defray opening costs.

Requejo said it was fairly easy to get his businesses up and running. “It was significantly easier than opening a whole brick-and-mortar location by ourselves,” he said. Another plus is that Cloud Kitchens, the company behind The Hill Food Co, has facilities in other states like Colorado, California and Texas, which could provide an easy way to expand to other markets.

“For a first-time business owner, this is a great way for someone with a food concept but not a lot of capital, or who’s risk-averse, to get their feet wet,” Requejo said.

Cloud Kitchens declined to comment for this story.