Since chicken tenders and fries is a favorite meal of most kids—and many adults—it’s only a matter of time before business at 1301 Hen House, the new “ghost kitchen” on the University of Mary Washington campus, takes off.
“Oh, it’s gonna grow,” said David Schneider, general manager of Sodexo, UMW’s food services provider, about the new endeavor, which launched in June.
Chicken is on the menu at 1301 Hen House, which operates out of UMW’s University Center. Crispy tenders coated with Executive Chef Peter Stine’s signature gluten-free chickpea breading come on their own, on a pretzel roll with bacon or on a Caesar or Cobb salad.
You can also get curly fries and “Barnyard Bites”—honey-glazed doughnut holes with sweet or savory toppings.
Joye Thomas, Sodexo marketing assistant, said 1301 Hen House is believed to be the first ghost kitchen in the Fredericksburg area.
Ghost kitchens—also known as cloud kitchens or virtual kitchens—are essentially restaurants without dining space, a storefront, paper menus or waitstaff. They are professional food cooking facilities set up for the preparation of delivery-only meals.
One kitchen facility can be home to multiple independent ghost kitchens or an established restaurant brand can develop spin-off concepts that operate as ghost kitchens.
“You can move anywhere and you have the freedom to try different cuisines and concepts,” Stine said. “It’s like a food truck, but you’re not limited in what you sell. You can change up the concept when things get tired.”
Restaurants also lease their kitchen spaces to ghost kitchen brands, creating an additional revenue stream. This trend grew in 2020, as the pandemic forced restaurants to get creative in order to survive.
That’s what inspired Schneider to start looking into the ghost kitchen idea last summer.
“We were looking for way to generate additional revenue during the pandemic,” he said.
At first, UMW’s ghost kitchen was going to have a Mediterranean theme, but it evolved into fried chicken—which according to the website Eat This, Not That! was the most popular fast-food menu item of 2020.
“We were looking at what would be effective for students, and you can’t go wrong with chicken tenders,” Stine said.
Not only are Stine’s tenders popular, they’re also gluten-free, so they can be enjoyed by everyone.
1301 Hen House is open to the public for the moment. That may change once students are back on campus, Schneider said.
Anyone can order via delivery by Grubhub through the Grubhub app by searching “1301 Hen House.”