George Lopez’s taco restaurant comes to DC (but you can’t go there)

George Lopez Tacos has arrived in D.C. — but don’t plan to go in person. (Courtesy Nextbite)

Ghost kitchens are having their moment, and comedian George Lopez has lent his name to one that’s now delivering in D.C. and Alexandria.

By nature of ghost kitchens, it’s not a place diners can go. The taco menu is available for delivery only through major food delivery services, including Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates and Grubhub.

George Lopez Tacos is the latest addition for Nextbite, which partners with restaurants in markets across the country for ghost kitchen concepts. It provides the digital platform, training and all promotion. Its George Lopez Tacos ghost kitchen partner in Alexandria is The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille. The D.C. ghost kitchen is operating out of commercial kitchen and incubator Mess Hall.

Per Nextbite’s website, the company takes 45% of gross sales and estimates restaurants earn 30% of gross sales after food and packaging costs. That does not include other overhead costs. It says restaurants could generate additional revenue of between $3,000 and $10,000 per month.

Nextbite was founded in 2019 and is owned by Los Angeles-based restaurant software platform Ordermark. The company has raised $151 million in funding, with backers that include Softbank, Foundry Group and Nosara Capital. Nextbite currently offers restaurants about a dozen ghost kitchen concepts, including celebrity-backed ones and its own house brands.

A company fact sheet says it is “building the largest, most innovative restaurant company in history without owning restaurants or kitchens.”

The third-party virtual kitchen concept is growing, and often attracting celebrities.

Last year, Food Network’s Guy Fieri launched a chain of ghost restaurants named Flavortown. In the D.C. area, Flavortown is delivering out of kitchens at Buca di Beppo in Dupont Circle, and several locations in suburban Maryland and Virginia.

Another ghost kitchen company, Virtual Dining Concepts, has a partnership with NASCAR for a ghost kitchen concept, and another with Mariah Carey for a cookie delivery business.

The pandemic accelerated online and digital restaurant ordering, but it was already growing before the pandemic. NPD Research estimates the digital ordering share of the restaurant industry is growing at a pace of 23% annually, and 60% of those orders are going through mobile apps.

The George Lopez Tacos menu is short, and its street tacos includes slow-cooked meat, toppings and a variety of salsas. They are delivered in an assemble-yourself format and include individual entrees and family-style meals.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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