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Learnings From a Pandemic Pivot: Kraft Heinz Foodservice launches Kitchen 57 ghost kitchen

Picture this: a juicy ground chuck patty sandwiched between an artisanal sesame bun, topped with crispy fried onion, Renées roasted garlic aioli, and tangy Heinz ketchup, mustard and relish. This glorious burger, known as the Kitchen 57 Smash Burger, is the brainchild of Kitchen 57, a new ghost kitchen concept powered by Kraft Heinz Canada Foodservice.

You might be wondering why Canada’s largest foodservices supplier—best known for its iconic brands such as Heinz Ketchup, Diana Sauce, and Philadelphia Cream Cheese—has expanded into the virtual kitchen model. Thomas Heitz, corporate chef at Kraft Heinz Canada, explains that launching a ghost kitchen concept demonstrates how the company is helping the Canadian foodservices industry get back on its feet following devastating losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want to be seen as an industry leader,” he says. “That means gaining hands-on experience to help understand pain points, providing insights, and learning how we can better support our customers as the food landscape constantly evolves.”

Another Kraft Heinz Canada Foodservice initiative to help the industry get back on its feet, is their recently launched contest where one operator can enter for a chance to win $10,000 – a prize that can do a lot for a restaurant in this time of need. To learn more and enter for your chance to win, head over here.

Kraft Heinz Foodservice launched two ghost kitchens in July 2020: one in north Toronto and one in Montreal. In December 2020, a third ghost kitchen opened in downtown Toronto. All locations offer gourmet comfort food. Think: griddle smash burgers, buttermilk fried chicken sandwiches, and foot-long hot dogs smothered in unique mash-ups of Kraft Heinz condiments.

“Launching Kitchen 57 has been a true test-and-learn for the company,” he shared. “We needed to understand how this new landscape worked, the struggles that operators were going through, and how we needed to pivot as a company. It was also a good opportunity to receive valuable insights from our customers and tweak our portfolio [of products].”

Heitz offered some key learnings, including the necessity of building relationships with third-party delivery aggregators.

“In the ghost kitchen model, there’s no direct access to customers, so you’re relying on the aggregators,” he says. “It’s been a learning curve to understand timing and delivery standards to help boost our service scores.”

The past year has also been a valuable lesson in marketing. “When you launch a new business, building brand awareness takes time,” he explains. “We’ve been investing in marketing initiatives, such as BOGO deals as well as collaborating with micro-influencers to help get our food into people’s hands.” To date, these efforts have contributed to increased brand awareness and a near-perfect rating on Uber Eats and Skip the Dishes.

When it came to menu development, Heitz and his team noticed that people were turning to comfort food in the early days of the pandemic. To more effectively cater to the nuanced Toronto and Montreal markets, Heitz developed two separate menus. “The Toronto menu is primarily fried chicken and smash burgers,” Heitz says. “We offer comfort food, but people still want comfort and nostalgia with a health twist, and we’re seeing that with our plant-based BOCA burgers.”

Chef Heitz at Kitchen 57

In Montreal, the ghost kitchen’s name, Cuisine 5 à 7, as well as the menu, aim to embody Quebec culture. Heitz explains that the Montreal menu is about 60 per cent different from the Toronto menu. When the initial ghost kitchen launched back in July 2020, offerings included cheap-and-cheerful comfort foods, such as gourmet pizzas and deli smoked meat sandwiches. Recognizing that the Montreal community was craving something different, Heitz went back to the drawing board before unveiling a new menu in April 2021.

“We worked with Maple Leaf to offer a variety of gourmet foot-long hot dogs, such as the Sugar Shack Foot-Long Dog,” he says. “It’s wrapped in bacon, coated in Diana’s Maple BBQ Sauce, and topped with melted mozzarella and crispy shoestring onions.”

As part of the menu development process, Heitz has been something of a chemist in his own kitchen, experimenting with different Kraft Heinz products to elevate each dish.

“We use anywhere between 50 and 70 Kraft Heinz products in our menus,” he says. “I use products as a base and add one or two ingredients to create an authentic experience that’s unique to the brand.” With the Nashville Hot Crispy Chicken Sandwich, for example, Heitz coats the chicken with a mixture of Heinz Hot Sauce, Heinz Vinegar, and brown sugar.

The innovative use of Kraft Heinz products in menu offerings, as well as launching a ghost kitchen, are shining examples of how brands can continue to think outside the box and reinvent themselves during uncertain times. Although COVID-19 continues to be a challenging environment for foodservices owners, operators, and suppliers, Heitz explains that it’s pushed them to excel.

“With a rapidly changing food and dining landscape, it means constant reinvention and digital transformation,” he says. “Ghost kitchens are just a small piece of Kraft Heinz Canada’s transformation, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for the industry.”[

Recognizing the turbulent year restaurant owners and operators have experienced, Kraft Heinz Canada Foodservice is giving independent restaurants across Canada a chance to win a $10,000.

Until May 18, 2021, enter for a chance to win $10,000 from Kraft Heinz Canada Foodservice by:

  • Visiting kraftheinzfoodservicecontest.ca
  • Completing the short survey.
  • Signing up for Kraft Heinz Edge emails to stay up to speed on current trends, products, and promotions.

Rules and Regulations

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Sponsored and administered by Kraft Heinz Canada ULC. Entry opens March 29, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. ET and closes May 18, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Open to owners of non-franchised, independent restaurants currently operating in Canada that: (i) operate no more than three (3) restaurants; (ii) hold a license to operate a restaurant; and (iii) reside in Canada. To enter, visit www.kraftheinzfoodservicecontest.ca, complete the Survey promoted and subscribe to Kraft Heinz Edge emails by providing contact information. Limit of one (1) entry per Entrant. One (1) Prize of one (1) $10,000 cash prize for your restaurant. Prize winner selected on May 25, 2021. Value of Prize is $10,000 in total. Odds of winning a Prize depend on number of eligible entries submitted during the Contest Period. Entrants must answer skill-testing question to claim Prize. For prize details and full contest rules, visit: kraftheinzfoodservicecontest.ca

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