The pandemic has made virtual dining a global trend and revolutionized the food and hospitality sectors. The virtual kitchen concept is nothing short of a savior for the customers craving to eat from their favorite restaurants. Most importantly, the virtual restaurant business model allowed traditional brick-and-mortar food establishments to reduce overhead expenses exponentially.
Whether you are a seasoned restaurateur or an entrepreneur about to dip your feet into the restaurant business, here is everything you need to know about “how to start a virtual restaurant?”
First of all – What Is a Virtual Restaurant?
A virtual restaurant is just like a commercial kitchen but without any premises, tables, chairs, and an area to dine in. It is one of the most unique restaurant ideas that allow you to cook food remotely and deliver it to your customers’ doorstep via third-party delivery services.
You can start the best virtual restaurant as a cloud kitchen that offers stand-alone food delivery. Alternatively, you can operate a brick-and-mortar restaurant offering takeout-only service and online food delivery.
Adapting a virtual restaurant model allows you to expand your brand’s outreach to target a broader customer base in your locale. The best part is that you will be able to generate more revenue as virtual kitchens will require fewer resources, staff members, and capital investment.
Which Ingredients Create the Best Virtual Restaurant Business Plan?
How do you come up with a virtual kitchen business plan? Here is a 6-step process to develop the best virtual restaurant model that fits your goals and budget.
Step #1 – Analyzing Your Objective
You should start by asking yourself why a virtual restaurant is a suitable model for you; what do you want to achieve? For instance, do you want to expand your outreach and generate more revenue, or do you want to increase your profits by going online wholly?
If you are thinking about starting a new food business, a virtual kitchen is a great way to test your menu with limited resources.
If you are running a dine-in restaurant, you can add virtual kitchen services to your existing eat-in business. By doing so, you can offer takeout and online food delivery. Alternatively, you can move to a ghost kitchen business model altogether.
Step# 2 – Research Restaurant Demand in Your Area
The next step is to determine if there is enough customer demand for a virtual kitchen in the area you wish to serve. One way is to look at your competitors in the market and learn from their experiences. Researching your direct competition will also help you identify the dos and don’ts of the virtual kitchen niche.
You can also learn about the most valuable and productive tools and technologies to aid your new cloud kitchen business.
Step #3 – Planning Your Commercial Kitchen
After determining your needs and analyzing the local market, you must focus on your operation’s base, i.e., the commercial kitchen. If you are an existing restaurant, you can use the existing kitchen to serve both on-premise and online customers.
All you need is to integrate POS software for cloud kitchen into your current operation’s solution. A POS system allows you to handle all the transactions using just one system.
You should also finalize your menu; decide the dishes and cuisines you want to serve. Remember, there is a lot of competition out there, so offering unique food recipes and niche dishes can give you a competitive edge over other players in the market.
Step#4 – Learning the Local Law
Food and hospitality are some of the most highly regulated business sectors; hence you must know everything there is to know about running a virtual restaurant. Traditional food health and safety standards and laws will be applicable.
You should also check for other local compliance laws to ensure that you are OK to start rendering online food services to your customer base in the area. As a virtual startup restaurant, you must ensure that you have the right license certificates and fulfill inspection requirements.
Step #5 – Planning Your Restaurant Resources
Now that you have a business model, you have researched the market, and found a commercial kitchen for your operations, the final step is to streamline your resources. These include hiring your kitchen staff and finding a tech solution provider to install an automated restaurant ordering system.
You will also need to find out which food delivery services will work best for you and your customers. These apps can charge the restaurants up to 30 percent in fees and other issues that can lead to lower profit margins for your restaurant.
Step#6 – Creating Brand Awareness
Whether you are a popular restaurant in town or a new startup, how will you let everyone know about your virtual restaurant services? This is where you will need a strong marketing plan.
The power of digital platforms can not be overstated. According to one study, 90 percent of customers research a restaurant online before making a decision. And with more than 80 percent of the US population using social media today, it is easy to say that being active on social platforms is exceptionally important for digital marketing.
Driven by aesthetically pleasing visuals and snackable videos, social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook provide a platform for you to not only attract new customers and create a brand voice but also establish a relationship with them. You do this by responding to customer comments, reviews, and queries.
Here is a guide for you to check out if you are not sure where to start.
5 Tips for Starting a Virtual Restaurant
Are you ready to set up your virtual restaurant? Here are some tips to help you ace this project conveniently.
Tip#1 – Build an Unbeatable Menu
The chances are that the market you wish to enter already has several virtual kitchens offering services. Therefore, to beat the competition, you must build an unbeatable menu and offer something that no one else does.
Tip#2 – Pick a Location Wisely
While you will need a commercial space for your ghost kitchen operations, you must choose the location wisely. Ideally, you must pick an area central to your target customer base. This will give you comprehensive coverage and cater to customers in all directions.
Tip#3 – Know Your Suppliers and Partners
You must identify suitable suppliers to provide you with consistent ingredient delivery services. To run the best virtual restaurant, you will need the best network of partners and suppliers, so you are never out of stock to prepare your food dishes.
Tip#4 – Partner only with the Most Trusted Food Delivery Apps
You may serve the best food in town, but what good is it if you cannot get it to the customer while piping hot. You must not compromise when it comes to picking a partner for food delivery. Do some research and only pick the best food delivery service/app in your area. GrubHub, DoorDash, and Uber Eat are three you must look into.
Tip#5 – Offline Marketing Still Works
Since your virtual restaurant will have no physical outlet, you must use different channels for marketing your cloud kitchen services. Therefore, apart from using social media, you can still use traditional marketing methods, such as flyers and pamphlets to secure customers’ interest and ensure retention.
Showcase your best menu and offers, and do not forget to mention vital information such as your website address, social media links, contact numbers, discount codes, etc.
GRUBBRR Can Be Your Best Virtual Restaurant Partner
If you plan to open up a virtual restaurant, you will require online solutions that can help take orders, process payments, and track food deliveries. GRUBBRR can help! Our innovative solutions are specifically designed for full integration into the food industry, restaurant operations, and POS systems. For more info – Speak to our team today!