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A leading 'ghost restaurant' shuts down

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Maple, one of the first and still most prominent delivery-only “ghost restaurants,” has shut down its New York City operation because of logistical challenges and inefficiencies, its founders say today in a letter to customers.

Local media widely reported the venture was losing money, though the reports could not be confirmed independently.

The shutdown casts doubt on the viability of ghost restaurants, which typically consist solely of a kitchen, without a dining room, a takeout window or often even a storefront. Unlike such third-party deliverers as PostMates, DoorDash and UberEats, Maple prepared the meals it delivered, rather than merely hauling other restaurants’ food to customers’ homes and offices. It used a fleet of bicycle riders and runners on foot to transport the food.

Co-founders Caleb Merkl and Akshay Navle left open the possibility of recasting the concept, possibly as a third-party deliverer, but they indicated the current approach was no longer feasible. They said in their communication that Maple had been acquired by Deliveroo, a leading third-party service in Europe.

Maple drew considerable attention and emulation when it launched two years ago, in part because of backing from such high-profile figures as chef David Chang. It also provided an attractive business model for chefs operating in high-rent urban areas. The format required far less space than a conventional restaurant did, and could be situated in a low-traffic setting like a warehouse area.

“We showed up every day for all of you and we hope you enjoyed the journey as much as we did,” Merkl and Navle wrote.

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