Posted on January 27 2022
Until Americans feel safer traveling outside of their homes, and local municipalities reduce current seating restrictions, restaurants will have a difficult task bringing customers back inside their doors. Also, more and more people are opting for delivery, rather than a sit-down meal. If operators have not already added off-premises meals to their offerings, they will need to do so to survive in the coming years.
As America went into lockdown when the pandemic arrived last March, some restaurant owners and operators got creative just to stay afloat. Restaurant owners and operators had to approach things with safety and social distancing in mind and looked to peers, as well as local health officials for advice and guidance. Many flipped overnight into takeout and online-ordering only models. New takeout and delivery systems were set up, with counter, bar and table space repurposed to hold bagged orders, while some dining rooms were turned into minimarts where consumers could access then hard-to-find staples like flour, sugar and even toilet paper.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the use of ghost kitchens as food-delivery options has surged. Using a ghost kitchen allows established restaurants with dining-in service to expand their delivery operations without adding stress to the existing kitchen, freeing up parking taken by delivery vehicles, and allows them to enter new neighborhoods at lower cost.
What is a ghost kitchen? Ghost kitchens, which are also known as cloud or dark kitchens, capitalize on the online ordering and delivery service models most restaurants are now required to work within while reducing typical brick-and-mortar costs. This new business concept consists of a kitchen where multiple dishes are prepared and then delivered to customers through third-party delivery apps. Some operate entirely online, allowing customers to order through third-party delivery services, like GrubHub, DoorDash, or Uber Eats, and receive their food without any direct contact from the ghost kitchen operator. Alternatively, some operators also use their own method of delivery, cutting out the third-party fees associated with those services.
Technology used for online food delivery: Ghost kitchens allow restaurant owners and operators to grow their business with lower risk and higher returns. These kitchens have minimal front-of-the house labor costs, seating, tables and wait staff because they are exclusively used for delivery purposes. They are commercial kitchens optimized for delivery. Operators can launch a new location in a fraction of the time it would take to open a brick-and-mortar location, sometimes in less than a month. Plus, operators can save on rent costs because they no longer pay a premium to be on a busy street.
Some ghost kitchens can host multiple concepts which allows operators to expand their reach to new customers, experiment with new menu items, cuisine types and new markets all at a fraction of the cost of operating a traditional restaurant.
Tips on how to open a successful ghost kitchen
Optimize your menu for delivery: Time and temperature are huge issues for food quality and are the biggest considerations when developing your ghost kitchen concept. Take into consideration prep time when selecting your menu items and keep your food costs low by offering a menu with items that use similar ingredients and preparation methods. Lastly, consider how well the food items will hold their optimal temperatures during the delivery process.
Find the right space: The greatest benefit of ghost kitchens is that they can be located virtually anywhere. All you need is kitchen space in a location that expands your delivery range. Initially, focus on areas where dine-in customers already exist and you have an existing customer base. Later, you can expand to new markets.
Takeout packaging: Prioritize your packaging One of the most important parts of starting a ghost kitchen is choosing the right delivery packaging, as the packaging and your food could be the only interaction that customers have with your business. Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to choosing the right delivery packaging for a successful ghost kitchen.
Use tamper proof containers - closable containers or tamper-proof seals are extremely important in today’s climate, as people want to ensure that their food has not been touched during delivery. Tamper-proof seals can be an effective way to give customers confidence that their food is safe to eat.
Size matters - choose the right size for the food you are packaging and try not to put all food in the same type of container. This can keep it from sliding around and getting damaged in transport.
Eco-friendly packaging - with so many takeout boxes and cups ending up in landfills, choosing eco-friendly alternatives can be a selling point for customers.
Implement a marketing strategy: Because ghost kitchens have no brick and mortar location for guests to visit, they rely heavily on their digital presence to create visibility in the marketplace. While third-party marketplaces such as Grubhub and UberEats directly market the concept in their app, profits are often lower when using a third party app.
Make sure your website is updated. Customers need to be able to find your name, phone number, email address and a way to order online. Additionally, using social media to grow brand recognition and establish a following before, during, and after launch can help to solidify the concept.
Here to stay: Technomic, a management consulting firm for the foodservice business, projects that sales from ghost kitchens will rise by a projected 25% each year for the next five years in the US, according to Restaurant Business Online. Eventually, they will hit an estimated $300 million in yearly sales.
Today, nearly every restaurant is a ghost kitchen that provides only off-premises product. As the industry resets, more companies may decide to eliminate the dining room altogether to capitalize on longer-term, off-premises trends.
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Trust our ghost kitchen experts with your concept.
The choice of mobile or modular ghost kitchen formats provides maximum flexibility in projecting facilities close to your customers. Our ghost kitchen design experts will work with your food types, menus and meal production requirements to design an optimized flow and equipment configuration to fit current and future operations. Please call our knowledgeable sales reps to start your operation today at 800-960-4300, or stop by our showroom.