The Winnipeg-based Carbone Restaurant Group aims to be a pioneer in the ghost kitchen space as well as robotic kitchens, conveyors and be one of the leading restaurant technology companies while also embarking on massive expansion plans for its FAST FIRED by Carbone pizza brand.
The quick service restaurant began with its first location in Winnipeg in 2015. Today it is operating four locations – two in Winnipeg, one in Brandon and one in Regina – with two more expected to open soon in Regina and Moose Jaw. The company was founded by CEO Benjamin Nasberg.
‘Ghost Kitchens are on the rise globally,’ Nasberg says. ‘‘Operating as 100% virtual brands that are strictly take-out and delivery offer a variety of products and cuisine from a single location. The ghost kitchen model offers restaurant and business owners the opportunity to utilize existing kitchen space and staff, capitalize on delivery demand, have less food waste, and increase revenues.”
Doug Warren, Vice President of Franchise Sales for FAST FIRED/Carbone Restaurant Group, said the brand offers a completely different experience than other regular pizza establishments.
“Custom made pizza, which is on the healthy variety and kind of more plant-based is our angle you can say. The fact that it’s cooked so quickly allows us to have a heavy lunch crowd. Some pizza places are not even set up to open up until 4 p.m.,” said Warren.
“There’s a whole system of different markets we can hit (dine in, delivery, pickup) because the pizza is cooked very quickly, you don’t have to wait 45 minutes for it.”
The FAST FIRED name comes from Fresh, Authentic, Sustainable, Tailor-made.
Warren said the pandemic held back expansion plans for the past year or so.
“We’ve got 25 people lined up, signed franchise agreements coast to coast. Half of them were delayed a year because of the pandemic unfortunately. Locations, leases, landlords weren’t even working for awhile. So it was a real challenge,” he said.
“We’ve got six locations, but we’re expanding rapidly. In total, our goal is about 200 stores and that includes some non-traditional type sites, maybe universities and those kind of industrial settings. Two hundred coast to coast in Canada.
“And then from there, international. We’re likely to look at Australia, U.S., possibly Middle East. In fact, I have investors that are waiting to look at this in places like Dubai and Europe. We’re just kind of holding back until we really get it developed in Canada. Now how long will that take? I signed over 20 deals since May. If I was to look at 2022 I think 50 signed deals, 25 stores will open and that’s really when it will take off. It has to do with executing on operations and being successful.”
Warren said the Carbone Restaurant Group is also pioneering in the ghost kitchen space.
“Ghost kitchens are developing a robotic kitchen concept like a technology. Pizza vending machines for certain types of locations that FAST FIRED could not go into. At the same time we have folks buying QSR concepts because you’ve got be in there to deal with the customer and make the pizza, we’re developing automated systems to not only sell to the restaurant industry but also some of those innovations will go into FAST FIRED,” said Warren.
“For instance, right now a guy has to stand at the oven for three minutes to make sure the pizza doesn’t burn. It’s so hot. But with a conveyor which we’re developing, it will actually move the pizza through it in three minutes and we could do 20 at a time if we wanted to without burning any of them. That’s the thing we’re working on.”
“There’s a lot of AI (Artificial Intelligence) these guys are involved with for the restaurant industry. It’s a separate division. Some of it could really revolutionize the restaurant industry. The CRG believes that automated restaurants are coming.”
Warren said the company is helping struggling restaurants create a ghost kitchen in their restaurants with the idea to generate revenue.
“They seem to be hitting a chord, there’s no doubt about it. The other thing too is actually open up our own ghost kitchens with these brands including FAST FIRED, but right now FAST FIRED is in the QSR space,” he said. “The ghost kitchens right now are burgers, tacos, all different products than pizza.”
Carbone Restaurant Group created a number of new brands, including Plantza, Good Pup Co. and soon to be launched breakfast concept, Wide Eye. CRG’s ghost kitchen portfolio includes Mr. Beast Burger (founded by YouTube sensation Jimmy Donaldson known to his 50+ million subscribers as Mr.Beast.) and Seon’s Kitchen in partnership with Seonkyoung Longest, celebrity chef and well-known US television and social media personality with over 6.5 million followers.