Belgian Casper haunted kitchens will haunt neighboring countries

The fledgling Belgian chain has raised 5 million euros to finance its expansion: by 2024 it will have opened 50 restaurants in France, the Netherlands and the Grand Duchy.

The ghost kitchens or “haunted kitchens” (restaurants whose only means of consumption is delivery or takeout, editor’s note) have been multiplied during the incarcerations in 2020. The movement has not spared Belgium. And among the few entrepreneurs who have invested in it are the founders of the casper chain there was full throttle. Inspired by the boom in this new profession he had previously observed in New York, where he worked for five years in a waffle chain (see box), Belgian Matthias Laga thought there was an opportunity on the Belgian market to create the cream of the crop there.

With the support of Zhong Xu, co-founder of Deliverect, the Flemish “unicorn” that automates the management of restaurant menus and orders, and Peter van Praetthe founder and CEO of the spaghetti restaurant Valve, Matthias Laga founded the company ghost and the Casper chain in Ghent in March 2020, in full “lockdown”.

One kitchen but ten styles

He wanted to put the small dishes in the big ones. Casper, who has since branched out to five other Belgian cities including Brussels, offers the choice between ten families of menus by as many gastronomic styles: eight of these ten “brands” are his, two others refer to two partners, The Vegetarian Butcher and Pascale Naessens. All are prepared in our own kitchens (one per city). Customers can pick up their order at the restaurant (“take away”) or have it delivered to one of three partner platforms: Just Eat Takeaway, Deliveroo and Uber Eats.

“We are already the frontrunner in Belgium in the niche of ghost restaurants.”

Matthias Laga

Co-Founder and CEO, Casper

This formula, which Matthias Laga prefers to describe as “hybrid kitchen‘ instead of ‘ghost’, appeals mainly to millennials and Gen Z, and works well: 230,000 meals served in 2021. “We are already a frontrunner in this niche in Belgium”, emphasizes the entrepreneur based on the data collected by the three platforms. These absorb 90% of the turnover.

Fund expansion

Ambition is part of food, Matthias Laga intends strong expansion of his company, which will pass through neighboring countries. He will open five restaurants in as many cities in Dutch and a first in France (in Lille) in the third quarter of this year. Then release one in the Grand Duchy and accelerate its implementation in France through Nantes, Strasbourg and Paris, before heading south. Objective: to exploit some 50 restaurants outside Belgium by 2024.

5 million euros

Casper Fundraiser

Casper (Spookje BV) raised 5 million euros from Slingshot Ventures and private individuals.

Reason why Casper get new resources† He has just raised €5 million in fresh money from an investment fund and several entrepreneurs, including Zhong Xu and Jan Hollez, the other co-founder of Deliverect. The fund is Catapult Ventures: Based in Amsterdam, financed by investor-entrepreneurs, it focuses on companies preparing the future of digital consumption. A personal note, Jürgen Ingels, who founded the technology-focused private equity fund smartfin, also placed a few balls in this series A (growth) trick.

“This money will be used to fund our expansion and recruitment policy.”

Matthias Laga

Co-Founder and CEO, Casper

“This money will be used to fund our expansion and recruitment policy,” explains Matthias Laga hiring staff in the Netherlands and France to run our new sites.” Each restaurant works with two managers, flexi-jobs and students. Ghost now has 21 employees and about 20 of these perks, but the 50 openings will inflate these numbers.

In addition to the international, the young loot also counts increase visibilityto further stimulate direct order intake (“our restaurants are not hidden, but open and transparent”, emphasizes the boss), and to tackle business customers† And if all goes according to his plans, he will gather additional resources in 2023-24 to support a new phase in his expansion.

Two encounters in New York at the origin of Casper

After working for eleven years in the food sector in Belgium, Matthias Laga went to New York in 2015, where he worked for the Belgian waffle chain Waffles & Things† It was in Manhattan that he witnessed the rise of haunted kitchens. “They were sticking out of the ground like trees in the forest. †

To decide to try the entrepreneurial adventure himself, he needed some help. Or just say a click† This one happened when he took turns meeting Peter Van Praet and Zhong Xu, moving to the “Big Apple”. He realized that the founder of restaurant Bavet and that of Deliverect shared his fascination for this new kind of ‘kitchen’.

The three men agreed that there was potential for this in Belgium and the Benelux. They worked together for the cause. And Casper was born…

The summary

  • With the support of Zhong Xu, the co-founder of Deliverect, and Peter Van Praet, the founder and CEO of spaghetti restaurant Bavet, Matthias Laga created the chain of ghost or hybrid restaurants Casper in Ghent in March 2020, right in the middle of “lockdown”.
  • Today it has 6 restaurants in 6 cities and will increase to 12 by the end of the year with the first openings in the Netherlands, France and Luxembourg.
  • By 2024, the young sprout will have about 50 locations outside its home market.
  • Casper has just raised 5 million euros to finance this expansion.

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