The Rise of Ghost Kitchens

While they may sound ominous, ghost kitchens are in vogue in the restaurant industry, and for good reason. Sometimes called dark kitchens or virtual kitchens, this concept involves restaurants with only a kitchen. No dine-in space, all delivery, takeout or pickup. Gaining popularity even before COVID-19, ghost kitchens are now particularly relevant as many typical restaurant-goers are sticking to delivery for safety. Restaurant Business predicts that this model will outlast the pandemic as sales via ghost restaurants from 300 facilities in the United States will rise by a projected 25% each year for the next 5 years—an estimated $300 million in yearly sales. 

The company Kitchen United has popularized a version of the ghost kitchen model in which multiple restaurants and cuisines exist under one roof. The shared kitchen space company currently has locations in Austin, Los Angeles, New York City and more. The Pasadena kitchen houses nearly 20 different concepts. Customers can order, say, halal food and Japanese food at the same time from the same reputable place. McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A, alongside smaller, family-owned businesses, are beginning to use ghost kitchens. Here’s what you should consider before opening a ghost kitchen yourself 

Lower Operation Costs 

It’s obvious why ghost kitchens have become popular—they lower input and operation costs. Imagine focusing exclusively on food preparation in your restaurant. You would not have to worry about decorating or maintaining a storefront, furnishing a dining room, or paying a waitstaff. The façade doesn’t have to be pretty or even be in a prime location, so the real estate cost will be much lower. Lower operation costs mean lower prices for customers. Companies like GRUBBRR make contactless delivery easy, allowing you to maximize upselling with suggested upgrades. Your restaurant should rework its menu to suit delivery and speed up prep. Restaurant Business recommends adding avocado, for instance, as an add-on as it can be purchased pre-prepared and is very trendy. 

Raise Your Attention to Detail 

Opening a ghost kitchen will be no easy process and might be an option better suited to restaurants that already have an established brand and are looking to open another location. The success of your ghost kitchen will depend entirely on your customers; do they value the meal or the experience more? It’s time to do your due diligence and research your options. Typically, you see your customers and can receive feedback in person. Ghost kitchens will require creativity and candid conversations—ask your customers how they would feel about a ghost kitchen option. 

With no physical dining room in your restaurant, you absolutely need to monitor the little details. Devote more attention to packaging and delivery speed. Control the quality and consistency of the food you’re sending out. Ghost kitchens can’t afford to throw food in a box and send it out. Maybe invest in eco-friendly utensils and packaging, think of creative sayings or logos to decorate the boxes, and ensure your delivery drivers are kind and prompt. You’ll need to put effort into branding, website development, and social media management. Your customers will need to get to know you virtually and it’s vital to tell your story and explain your mission online. If you fail to do these things, your restaurant will remain impersonal and unenticing. Ghost kitchens are a big risk but, with attention to detail and care, can lead to huge rewards.