No, it isn’t something you’d find on the buffet car of a ghost train – instead it’s a fully-staffed kitchen whose function is to prepare meals for delivery only.

Why would they do that?

The obvious answer is that even in a pandemic people do occasionally tire of the standard take-away fare and decide they want something a little more upmarket. But with restaurants and eateries having to close their doors you obviously can’t book a table and step outside the home to get it – which is where ghost kitchens (also known as dark kitchens) come in.

What are they exactly?

Operating out of large commercial kitchens, often in warehouses and often alongside other similar operations, they’re a means by which established brands or start-ups can cook food to order. That food is then delivered to your door, often by a young person dressed in luminous livery and riding a bicycle.

What’s the benefit?

For the restaurants it means that with no premises to rent and heat and no waiting staff to pay (or outfit in matching polo shirts and cool canvas aprons), there are financial savings to be had – the kind of financial savings which might just keep a business afloat through what has been a trying time for the hospitality industry. For the start-ups, it’s a way to test the water and establish a market before (possibly) opening bricks and mortar premises when the Covid-19 coast is clear. According to tech magazine Wired, London-based dark kitchen start-up Karma Kitchen has thrived during the pandemic. It set out to win £3 million investment and ended up with a deal worth north of £250 million. They now have plans to expand into Europe.

It all sounds great ...

Broadly, yes. There have been some lurid hygiene-related stories about some of the less salubrious dark kitchens, but on the whole it’s good news for everyone who likes to eat out and a fine example of restaurateurs applying innovative thinking to the problems of their sector. Or, to put it another way: “The whole idea is to help restaurants expand into new areas without necessarily having the same cost-base they would have in expanding on the high street.” So says Dan Warne, managing director of Deliveroo UK. In Inverness there’s a dark kitchen set-up called The Dark Kitchen (they specialise in gourmet burgers and noodles which you can have delivered or pick up) and last month a plant-based burger chain backed by Lewis Hamilton announced it would be opening 20 dark kitchens across London for delivery only.

But bad news for waiting staff, right?

Yes. Likewise sommeliers, mixologists and whatever you call the people who keep the Mint Imperials by the cash register topped up.