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‘Ghost kitchen’ fully embraces delivery model

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With traditional modes of dining restricted and some community members still hesitant to venture outside of their homes, New Mexico restaurants have been forced to find inventive ways to stay in business.

After seeing sales dwindle at Downtown Albuquerque restaurant Urban Taqueria, owner Hanif Mohamed made the decision to lean into the storm and adapt his business model with the creation of Urban Cocina, which he says is Albuquerque’s first dedicated “ghost kitchen.”

Ghost kitchens are spaces where restaurants prepare food solely for carry-out and delivery. Unlike traditional restaurants, some ghost kitchens, like Urban Cocina, will house multiple brands or menus under one roof.

Urban Cocina chef Dennis Apodaca, left, and owner Hanif Mohamed have transformed the Downtown Albuquerque Mexican restaurant Urban Tacqueria into a delivery-only “ghost kitchen.” (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/ Journal)

By definition, ghost kitchens aren’t new. National chains like Domino’s have operated via takeout and delivery for decades, but what differentiates Urban Cocina from other concepts is that it has multiple menus and is only available through delivery.

Mohamed said that as a Downtown business, much of Urban Taqueria’s traffic evaporated when workers stopped coming into office buildings.

Delivery options, especially with popular food delivery apps like Grubhub and DoorDash, weren’t enough to offset the drop in business and he said delivery apps didn’t allow the business to have full control over how the customer received the product.

“If we want to do it, we want to control the whole experience,” Mohamed said.

With the desire to fully capitalize on the food delivery craze, Urban Cocina was born.

Urban Cocina consists of nine different menus options from tacos to Mediterranean fare – with all of the food produced in one kitchen.

“Within one portal, you have all of that available to you,” he said.

Mohamed said the seemingly different menus are all connected through ingredients.

Urban Cocina chef Dennis Apodaca, left, watches as Maria Ortiz make fresh tortillas at the newly reformatted “ghost kitchen.”

“Everything goes back to Urban Taqueria,” he said. “It’s Latin but it’s got the eastern influences as well.”

All of the cooking will be done at Urban Taqueria at 1 Central, but unlike the restaurant, the food from Urban Cocina is currently only available through delivery.

Items from both Urban Cocina and Urban Taqueria can be ordered through delivery apps, but Mohamed said the businesses also offer delivery themselves, and it’s often much cheaper to order directly from the restaurants.

The new business is already seeing some success, with sales more than doubling, Mohamed said. For more information, visit urbancocina.com.

Nexus seeks local micro-investors

A year and a half after opening, Nexus Blue Smokehouse is now turning to community members to raise funds to finish the expansion of the South Broadway restaurant.

Ken Carson, owner of Nexus Brewery and Nexus Blue Smokehouse, said the investment is a unique opportunity because it allows community members to become investors in a local restaurant in an underutilized area of town while potentially earning back their investment.

The dining area at Nexus Blue Smokehouse. Owner Ken Carson plans to use investment money to continue renovations, which include an expansion of the dining area.

Carson has partnered with direct investment platform Mainvest to raise at least $100,000.

A former banker and state banking commissioner, Carson said he chose to finance the expansion using community investors rather than going through a bank because it gives regular people the rare opportunity to have an investment in the community.

“This is the type of thing that most people don’t get an opportunity to do,” he said.

A year after Nexus Blue Smokehouse opened at 1511 Broadway SE, the restaurant is looking to community members to invest in the restaurant. Owner Ken Carson said he wants to use the investment money to finish renovations and help revitalize the South Broadway area. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/ Journal)

The expansion of the smokehouse, at 1511 Broadway SE, is just one step toward what Carson hopes is a revitalization of the once-vibrant neighborhood, which used to be flush with local businesses.

“If I had … investors that participated in the completion of the project, those people would be more supportive of the project on Broadway,” he said.

Carson said that revitalization is already happening. Isotopes Park and Dreamstyle Arena – nearby on University and Avenida Cesar Chavez – have helped bring traffic to the area and to the smokehouse.

The restaurant is looking to raise a minimum of $100,000, which would be used to nearly double the footprint of the building by adding an additional 3,000 square feet of usable space by renovating areas like the restrooms and the bar area.

Carson said $12,000 was invested within the first three days of launching the project, with most investments made in $1,000 increments. Investments must be $250 or more.

So far, most of the investments have been made by loyal customers who believe in the restaurant, Carson said.

Construction is slated to begin in October.

Orthodontics office nears completion

A new office for Northeast Heights orthodontics practice Fanning Orthodontics is nearing completion and aims to be open by early November, according to owner Dr. Mike Fanning.

Fanning said the office is moving just down the street to a newly built facility at 8130 Ventura NE near Holly from its current location on Louisiana and Holly.

The 4,000-square-foot office will have more “opportunities for individual patient care” than the current office, Fanning said.

Fanning opened his practice in 2012. He said the new location made sense since it was near his patient base and in an area he liked.

Mullen Heller Architecture is the architect and Klinger Constructors is the contractor on the project.

Pilar Martinez covers retail and commercial real estate for the Journal. You can reach her at pmartinez@abqjournal.com or by phone at 505-823-3887.

 

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