The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the food sector, causing eateries all across the world to either close temporarily or convert to a takeaway and delivery-only strategy.
The future of restaurants may lay in a trend that began several years ago – ghost kitchens and ghost restaurants – as a result of the necessity to develop new and inventive methods to boost revenue.
Ghost kitchens, also known as cloud kitchens or dark kitchens, are designed to assist restaurants in expanding their delivery service and reaching more consumers at a (supposedly) low cost. According to Euromonitor, this developing concept has the potential to evolve into a trillion-dollar industry.
Ghost kitchens do not resemble typical restaurants; these haunts lack tables, chairs, host stands, bars, and patios. They do, however, follow health regulations, employ a large number of cooks, and use a fleet of delivery couriers.
With our new reality of delivery first, dine-in second, the concept of ghost restaurants and ghost kitchens makes sense during the pandemic – and may be here to stay.
But what precisely is a ghost kitchen?
What is a Ghost Kitchen?
A ‘ghost kitchen,’ also known as a ‘dark kitchen,’ or a ‘virtual kitchen,’ is a restaurant that only has a kitchen. There is essentially no physical storefront for these kitchens, and there is no indoor or outdoor seating. Instead, they focus solely on delivery, with takeaway or drive-thru options available on occasion.
These ghost kitchens are often smaller in size than standard restaurants and employ fewer people. Due to the lack of a restaurant-specific physical storefront or branding, different restaurants or brands frequently prepare and serve food from the same kitchen site. Multiple restaurants can generate and transport orders from the same location, allowing them to split operating and real estate costs.
The Origin of Ghost Kitchens
Although ghost kitchens are a relatively new concept, a few companies have stepped up to help them gain traction.
Kitchen United popularised a variant of the ghost kitchen model, in which several restaurants and cuisines share a same kitchen space and rent it out as needed. Locations for the shared cooking space company can be found in Austin, Los Angeles, New York City, and other cities. Customers can order halal food and Japanese food from the same renowned establishment in Pasadena alone, which includes approximately 20 different ideas.
Ghost kitchens are being used by McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A, as well as smaller, family-owned enterprises.
The advantages and disadvantages of a ghost kitchen
- Lower overhead cost
Ghost restaurants avoid all of the overhead expenditures associated with buying or leasing a commercial restaurant space because they don’t have a physical location. You don’t have to reprint anything if you wish to update your menu. All you have to do now is make updates online.
- Launching is simpler
In comparison to opening an on-premise dining restaurant, ghost kitchens can be set up relatively quickly. While you can choose to lease a space and start your own business, there are also companies that offer leasing services for spaces designed for ghost kitchens, and some even offer turnkey operations with all of the necessary equipment.
- Capitalise on increasing demand for online ordering
Ghost restaurants can use as many third-party delivery services as they like, as well as their own website, to sell their food.
- Less threats
You’re already avoiding a lot of the risks connected with opening your own restaurant because you’re lowering your overhead expenditures and not entertaining people in a restaurant setting. Having a ghost kitchen, like any other business in the hospitality sector, comes with dangers. However, you can reduce those risks by collaborating with services that provide turnkey operations, staff, knowledge, and other services.
- Food delivered is less fresh
The freshness of having your order brought to your table straight from the kitchen will never be matched by delivery. By removing the option for clients to order food “fresh from the grill,” restaurant owners must ensure that food quality does not suffer as a result of delivery.
- Increased marketing pressure
With no physical location to drive awareness, effective digital marketing is critical to customer acquisition in a strictly online space.
- Limited customer base
Since a ghost kitchen is an off-premise restaurant, you’ll only be able to serve delivery or takeout. Depending on the third-party platforms you employ, your delivery range may be limited.
Trends, Statistics, and Facts About Ghost Kitchens
- The world’s drive-thru and takeaway foodservice sectors are expected to be dominated by ghost kitchens, which are expected to account for half of all sales.
- In March 2020, food delivery orders surged by 67%.
- In the United States, there are around 1,500 ghost kitchens.
- Uber Eats’ income in 2020 was more than 100 percent higher than it was in 2019.
- At least twice a week, 34% of Americans buy takeout or delivery.
- Sandwiches and wraps are ordered by 21% of persons who order meals online.
- A ghost kitchen will set you back $20,000 to 30,000 to get started.
- DoorDash customers spent an average of $309 per person in the fourth quarter of 2021.
- Even minor errors can cost ghost kitchen owners upwards of $10,000.
Kitchen United and Cloud Kitchens, which was founded by Uber’s founder, Travis Kalanick, are two notable companies in the ghost kitchen space. A ghost kitchen is essentially a rented kitchen space where restaurateurs can launch a virtual restaurant brand without a physical location.
Conclusion: What to Expect from Ghost Kitchens Going Forward
It’s apparent that ghost kitchens have the potential to be a game-changer in terms of lowering operating expenses and providing a frictionless experience. However, a virtual kitchen isn’t the greatest solution for every type of restaurant – especially one that focuses on the customer experience – so it’s crucial to weigh the benefits and drawbacks before deciding to operate one.
Ghost kitchens are certainly here to stay, even though the pandemic has accelerated their expansion. Consider how to make your ghost restaurant stand out if this model is suited for you. What types of bespoke packaging do you have available? How do you make sure your delivery service is on time and courteous? With the growth in popularity of ghost eateries, it’s more crucial than ever to make yours stand apart.