What if we told you that you could boost your bottom line, gain more customers, and expand your restaurant business while operating at the same capacity you are now? Several years ago, a statement like that would have any experienced restaurant owner thinking we're crazy! But a popular new concept is making that once-far fetched idea into a reality.
Ghost kitchens are the newest craze in the restaurant industry, and it's not hard to see why. Traditionally, the only way to broaden your business horizons and expand a brand is to open more locations. But let's face it: That's an expensive undertaking that most companies simply can't do. It's too risky to take a leap of faith as massive as that, forcing most restaurant owners to rethink that old-school approach.
A ghost kitchen is a separate food preparation and cooking space that exclusively caters to off-premises delivery orders. It can coexist within your existing kitchen or be a rented kitchen space in an entirely different building. Either way, these kitchens are for delivery orders only.
For example, ghost kitchens are sometimes called dark kitchens, cloud kitchens, virtual kitchens, and more. Whatever you choose to call it, the concept is the same. You use ghost kitchens to prepare delivery orders and nothing more.
A traditional kitchen typically serves an attached dining room. It may even handle drive-through or carry-out orders. In each of those examples, the kitchen shares a direct tie to a physical location that consumers can visit
Most customers won't know it exists or have any idea of its location. The only people who know where meal preparation and order fulfillment occurs are your kitchen staff and delivery team. It remains a mystery, explaining why it's called a "ghost" or "cloud" kitchen.
They're restaurant brands that exist solely online through a website and app. They don't have a physical storefront and no place for customers to visit. The only way for patrons to get some grub is to order delivery.
These restaurants have unique menus, memorable branding, and a distinct identity that stands out. They're functioning restaurants like those you already see in every practical sense. The only difference is that they don't exist in any physical space.
Instead, they operate out of a digital storefront and use ghost kitchens to fulfill orders.
With a virtual restaurant and a ghost kitchen, you can have multiple brands under your existing restaurant business. Continue doing what you're doing to serve patrons in your dining room and cater to your loyal customer base. Meanwhile, you can have a separate operation of delivery-only orders running simultaneously, allowing you to expand while still operating at the same capacity!
What made it popular, and why should you consider it? To help you understand why ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants are the newest crazes in this industry, we only have to mention two words: Global pandemic.
When the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, it changed how we lived. Suddenly, people started staying home and spending less time splurging on prepared food. Restaurants took a big hit, and many closed their doors for good.
Before the pandemic, delivery orders were already rising in popularity. Many third-party delivery apps and services made it easier for people to order food without dining in. But it wasn't until the pandemic that delivery orders skyrocketed!
But delivery was still on the table. Restaurant owners had to shift their priorities, and the development of ghost kitchens took off. It was a game-changer and was responsible for keeping many establishments afloat.
It wasn't long until owners started getting creative with virtual restaurants. They saw the changing trends and developed fresh brands and innovative concepts to attract a new audience.
As things go back to normal, there's no doubt that people will come back to in-restaurant dining. But delivery is here to stay. Now that people realize how easy it is to get tasty food without leaving home, there's no stopping the delivery craze!
It's a brand-new revenue stream that can pad your bottom line and help you make the most out of your existing resources.
The best part? You don't have to make a massive investment to get started. With a ghost kitchen, you can segment your operations, focus on the growing demand for delivery, and watch your business flourish
Adopting the ghost kitchen concept and opening up a new virtual restaurant is an exciting process full of potential. But before you do anything, you have to figure out the logistics. The first thing is to determine what type of cloud kitchen works best for you.
There are a few different types of kitchen concepts to utilize. Here's a quick breakdown of how they work and the best way to take advantage of them.
The first type of ghost kitchen worth looking into is a pop-up kitchen. Also known as incubator kitchens, these are the easiest to create if you have a sizable existing kitchen.
It's called a pop-up because you can set it up and tear it down to meet your unique needs.
Pop-up kitchens are temporary cooking and prep spaces. They most often exist in brick-and-mortar restaurants. For example, you can cordon off one area of your kitchen and turn it into a pop-up ghost kitchen. Use that area exclusively for your virtual restaurant's delivery orders, and you've employed the concept by using the space you already have.
The key here is to establish distinct workflows. You can have separate staff completing the dining room and delivery orders in one kitchen. But, they should have individual workflows so that each team can work independently without affecting one another's processes.
If you don't have a massive kitchen space, don't fret. Pop-up kitchens can also be standalone workspaces on another part of your property. For example, you can rent a food truck, set up a kitchen tent, or put up a kiosk. The pop-up kitchen is still on your property for easy access to your freezer and supplies. But the separation allows your teams to focus on delivery orders away from the central kitchen.
Pop-up ghost kitchens are fantastic for virtual restaurants. But they have other purposes, too.
You can use them to test new concepts, launch temporary brands, or do limited-time restaurants. Because pop-ups use your existing restaurant, you have tons of flexibility to use them how you want.
The second type of ghost kitchen is one of the most common. Commissary kitchens are rentable cooking and prep spaces located in a different building from your own. Usually, third-party companies own the kitchen and rent them out to multiple tenants.
Also known as shared kitchens, this concept benefits from economy of scale. As the name would imply, you're sharing the kitchen with multiple other tenants. Your team will work alongside other restaurant brands and kitchen staff.
Don't worry: You have a dedicated space to call your own. So, there's no need to worry about mix-ups and conflicts. The larger kitchen is a shared space, but your virtual kitchen will have everything you need to work efficiently.
The cool thing about commissary kitchens is the super manageable overhead costs. Because the kitchen's owner split the space, they're getting rent from multiple tenants. That keeps prices relatively low across the board, making this concept perfect for restaurants on a limited budget.
The savings continue beyond overhead. Many commissary kitchens have shared supply pantries, helping you save on raw ingredients!
So, what is the ideal shared ghost kitchen scenario? Ultimately, it's a worthy option for any restaurant owner looking to start a virtual brand without breaking the bank. Maybe you don't have extra room in your existing kitchen, so you need to go elsewhere to fulfill orders.
The low cost is attractive, and the convenience of having an off-premises location is second-to-none. Your existing cooks are free to keep doing their thing while your secondary kitchen staff focuses on the delivery orders.
It's also beneficial for its flexibility. While the exact parameters of your rental deal will depend on the owner, many commissary kitchens allow you to rent by the day. Some even let you rent out space hourly! As a result, you can optimize your schedule and have virtual restaurant hours that align with the busiest delivery times.
The final type of ghost kitchen you can set up is a commercial kitchen. This option is best for restaurant owners wanting to go all-out on their virtual restaurant business. It's fantastic for high-volume restaurants or owners with multiple brands.
So, what is it?
A commercial kitchen is rentable kitchen space. Like commissary kitchens, a third-party company or landlord owns it, and you pay to use it!
The difference between a commercial kitchen and a commissary kitchen is that you're renting the entire space. You don't have to worry about sharing a single thing. In most cases, that means you can load up the kitchen with the unique tools and supplies you need. There's no need to clear out for the next tenant or worry about strict scheduling.
Commercial kitchens come in a myriad of sizes. It can be a massive kitchen full of individual workstations. Alternatively, it can be a small space that's only big enough for one team. Whatever the case, the kitchen is all yours!
Generally, commercial kitchens are something you work up to over time. It's still cheaper to rent a commercial ghost kitchen than foot the bill for a new restaurant location. But the costs are definitely higher than a commissary kitchen.
To justify that added cost, you need to ensure that your order volume supports the virtual restaurant.
Cloud kitchens are an innovative new concept that's helping restaurants see more profit than ever before. While it seems like a massive undertaking, you must remember that a virtual restaurant is not the same as a traditional one.
Here are just a few ways it's different.
The most significant difference with dark kitchens is their lower overhead. Think about it:
Whether you're doing a pop-up kitchen or renting space in a commissary kitchen, you're only paying for the cooking and preparation space. There's no front-of-house to speak of! That means no dining room staff, no maintenance costs, and no fancy extras to attract customers.
It's all about the kitchen space: Nothing more, nothing less.
It's significantly cheaper to open a virtual restaurant with a ghost kitchen. You have fewer staff members to hire because you only have traditional back-of-house operations. Pair that with the reduced slack, and your productivity will go through the roof.
It's a positive investment that could pay off handsomely.
The critical thing to remember about ghost kitchens is that they serve delivery-only virtual restaurants. You have no front-of-house space for customers to visit.
While that would usually seem like it would cut out a valuable revenue stream, it's quite the contrary! You see, deliveries are faster and more efficient. Your staff can fill orders quickly and move on to the next, allowing them to handle more volume than ever before.
Because there's no dine-in, you don't have to worry about table turnover, dining time, and other time-wasters that eat into your bottom line.
It's a chance to tap into the growing delivery market and maximize your profit-making potential.
Here's the thing about cloud kitchens and virtual restaurants: You don't have to use the same menu as your primary restaurant. It's a good idea to model it after your existing dishes, but you're creating an entirely new brand.
You can create a streamlined menu with delivery-only restaurants that takes efficiency to the next level. The problem with offering delivery alongside dine-in is that restaurants typically make the entire menu available across the board.
That gets pretty overwhelming on the delivery side. It gets chaotic, and you waste valuable time juggling different dishes.
With a virtual restaurant, you can have a condensed menu that prioritizes a specific theme or concept. Keep it simple and offer up your best dishes to a delivery-only crowd. That way, your cloud kitchen turns into a well-oiled machine!
The results speak for themselves when you use the ghost kitchen concept to start a new virtual restaurant brand. This concept has helped many restaurants stay afloat during the pandemic, and it's led to substantial growth for many businesses.
While it can be intimidating to launch a new business endeavor, this one can drive profits and help your revenue soar. Here's how.
In the old days, starting a new brand was a huge investment. It involved taking out loans to buy new properties, footing the bill for a strong marketing campaign, and absorbing the cost of training a new batch of employees.
With a cloud kitchen, you don't have to worry about any of that! Ghost kitchens require minimal upfront costs. You can use your existing staff and ditch the idea of buying more property. Rent out kitchen space and expand at your own pace.
There's no front-of-house element, so your costs are dramatically lower. Most businesses have everything they need already—all it takes is taking that first step.
Why did you enter the restaurant business? If you're like most owners, it was because of an ingrained passion for food! But over time, the business side of things likely took over and pulled your attention from the cuisine.
With a dark kitchen and virtual restaurant, you can return to the food and focus on providing excellent customer service. Forward Kitchens makes it easy to implement this business concept with turn-key solutions. It takes the stress out of expanding, allowing you to cultivate a culture around your brand and focus on what matters most: the food and the customer experience.
Have you ever wanted to branch out and try new things? With a traditional brick-and-mortar dine-in restaurant, it's not easy to think outside of the box. Once you establish yourself, there's not much choice but to stay in your lane.
Virtual restaurants live in the digital world! Your brand is entirely online, and the only thing that customers see is your website and ordering platform. That gives you the flexibility to have multiple concepts under one business umbrella.
Say, for example, that your main restaurant is Italian. Do a quick local search, and you're bound to find many eateries with a similar style and cuisine. With virtual restaurants, you can get creative and find ways to make your new brands stand out.
You can create one brand that focuses on pasta, another all about pizza, and another with nothing but Italian sweets. Just like that, you have three unique brand concepts that broaden your reach and boost your exposure.
That's just the start. You can tweak your menu and develop as many brands as you desire. But everything comes out of one ghost kitchen. Talk about flexibility!
Opening a new restaurant location comes with many risks. It's a costly endeavor, and your new location's success has the potential to make or break your business. There's not much wiggle room for experimentation. You have to get things right the first time or lose everything!
Once again, virtual restaurants save the day. Thanks to the lower upfront costs and inherent flexibility, you can experiment without the risks. If something doesn't work out, you don't lose much at all. You can strike the old brand and start anew with something fresh.
Now is your chance to try those quirky concepts you've always wanted! Figure out what works for you and fine-tune every idea until you find something that sticks. Ghost kitchens let you do that without paying the price for innovation.
Finally, virtual restaurants boost profits by streamlining your business operations.
Quick! Take a peek at what your staff is currently doing. There's a good chance that most of them are just standing around waiting for orders. Your kitchen staff can't work if the orders aren't coming in.
You're wasting money on slack. However, a dark kitchen lets you harness your team's full capabilities and maximize revenue.
With multiple virtual restaurants attracting new customers, the orders can keep rolling in. But even with a constant barrage of orders, the entire ghost kitchen concept ensures that things run smoothly. Your team isn't juggling complex dining room orders or a beefy menu.
Your virtual restaurants are inherently streamlined, allowing you to create an efficient workflow. It reduces food waste and gets orders out the door quicker than ever!
The easiest way to start a cloud kitchen is to work with a turn-key service provider like Forward Kitchens. We have a team of restaurant experts ready to hit the ground running and help you start maximizing your profits.
Opening a virtual restaurant is pretty straightforward. All it takes is some creativity, plenty of imagination, and minimal capital to take care of the essentials..
One of the most important things to figure out is how your new virtual restaurants fit into the market. What makes you unique, and why do hungry diners want to order from your new brand?
Take a look at what's around you and find a niche you can effortlessly fill. Examine the latest culinary trends and see what your competition is doing. Use your imagination and create a memorable brand that can attract a brand-new audience of hungry foodies looking for the latest and greatest culinary delight.
Location is everything in the restaurant business. Cloud kitchens are no different. However, the priority isn't on obtaining foot traffic and visibility. Remember: You have no front-of-house side or a place for your patrons to visit.
The best thing for a delivery-only concept is finding a kitchen in the middle of the action. It should be close enough to a delivery hotspot and all your supplies.
The beauty of ghost kitchens is that they don't have to be in prime real-estate locations with tons of foot traffic. As long as it's easy for delivery drivers to access, you're golden!
Your kitchen staff is what keeps your ghost kitchen going, but they need the support of reliable suppliers.
Much of the heavy lifting is done if you're working in a commissary kitchen. These rented spaces usually have a list of shared suppliers that can sometimes cut you a good deal. Some even have a team of drivers at the ready, eliminating the need to hire a dedicated delivery team.
But if you're working out of a pop-up kitchen or commercial kitchen, you may have to figure out those logistics on your own. Find suppliers you can trust. That applies to raw ingredients, packaging, delivery drivers, and any other provider that supports your business.
Of course, you need to get the word about your cloud kitchen out to the masses!
Drumming up interest isn't easy for a virtual restaurant that lives entirely online. There's no physical location to walk by or even organic word of mouth to spread the word when you first open. You must be proactive and launch killer marketing campaigns.
Take time developing a solid brand that caters to the diners you want to reach. Make it fun and impactful, so it stands out amongst the crowd.
Then, take to social media to let the world know what your brand is all about. Create a website, invest in advertising, and do whatever you can to make your new brand's presence known.
Ready to expand your business? Ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants are the way of the future. While your primary restaurant isn't going anywhere, this concept is a fantastic way to capitalize on the shift to a delivery-first way of dining.
Tap into a new market and take full advantage of your team's capabilities. There are tons of hungry diners just waiting on the convenience of delivery. With a ghost kitchen, you can develop innovative concepts and cater to those on-the-go food lovers while taking your profits to the moon!