Last year, Steven Salazar and Gabriel Medina launched Click Virtual Food Hall, a delivery- and takeout-only model based out of Rice Military. It's a ghost restaurant, but in food hall form: You order online from one or more of Click's several concepts, then one of Click's in-house drivers will bring the food to you. There's nowhere to dine in; instead, all of Click's efforts are directed to optimizing the delivery experience: temperature-insulated transport; an in-house, data-driven ordering, tracking, and delivery model; and an app with a rewards program for users.

Considering our increasingly online habits over the past several years, how much time many of us have to focus on eating, and a growing need for restaurant-quality food without the 90-minute-average restaurant experience, Click positioned itself early as the way of the future.

But then COVID-19 happened, and suddenly the idea of a delivery- and takeout-only model feels like more of a necessity. With restaurants shutting down temporarily—sometimes permanently—because of COVID impacts, and with the virus growing in Texas and making the future of dining even more uncertain, we're bound to see more ghost restaurants pop up and more chefs taking a chance at a new idea.

One of these chefs is Shannen Tune, owner of Craft Burger, which has a vendor space at Downtown's Finn Hall. Tune announced Wednesday that he has launched a new ghost chicken sandwich concept, Thick Chick, out of a cloud kitchen in the Third Ward. The space at 2616 Blodgett St is also home to other ghost concepts from other chefs, including Send Noods (Asian noodle dishes) and Just Wing It (chicken wings), which you can find on delivery platforms.

Tune says the ghost restaurant model is the right fit for him, and maybe for the long term.

"It allows you do as many concepts as you want in your space. There are no limitations," Tune says. "What I realized is it's a way to get different revenue streams out of more or less the same product."

For example, Craft Burger already sells a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, a Nashville hot chicken sandwich, and a buffalo chicken sandwich. At Thick Chick, Tune features some of those favorites while expanding on the chicken sandwich idea. Thus, the menu has the Double Stack (two pieces of fried chicken with pickles and mayonnaise) and the Holy Bacon Avocado (chicken with jack cheese, bacon, and avocado).

Soon, Tune will launch a fried chicken meal ghost concept called Pecking Order, which will feature box dinners, wings, tenders, and a few other chicken sandwiches. Then may come an affordable burger concept. Essentially, at least to start, Tune is expanding the reach of everything he already does at Craft Burger.

"Right before this pandemic started I was at the point of signing a lease to open a restaurant to do more upscale food," he says. "But this has taught me that, you know what, maybe now isn't the time for that. Maybe I need to just focus on growing the brand and the things I'm known for."

Thick Chick, which after launching Wednesday had an immediate stream of orders, is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday–Friday and is available via Postmates and UberEats.

Show Comments