We’ve all heard buzzwords flying around since the beginning of the pandemic – unprecedented, PPE, social distancing, etc. But one phrase keeps popping up in the foodservice industry: ghost kitchens. You may find yourself wondering what the emergence of these means for the future of our industry and how you may be able to leverage this trend for your own business. That’s where we come in. We’re here to answer your questions and help you learn everything you need to know about ghost kitchens.
What are ghost kitchens?
The question we’ve all been asking for a while now: what are ghost kitchens? While they seem to have sprung up very recently to some, Ghost Kitchens have been around since 2013. Ghost Kitchens are a virtual concept focused solely on delivery and takeout, eliminating front-of-house and on-site dining. You may also see these referred to as “cloud” or “virtual” kitchens.
If you’re thinking of pivoting to this virtual trend, there are two main ghost kitchen models to consider: Shared Kitchens (also called Commissary) or Private.
Shared Kitchens are exactly what they sound like: the sharing of resources and space between foodservice providers. The model may vary by community or location, but typically you’ll rent a commercial kitchen that comes fully equipped by the hour, week, or month. Other chefs will work alongside you, so make sure there’s space to rent during the times you’ll need it. Maintenance, storage, equipment, and supplies will generally be provided for you.
Private Kitchens give you more control, but will also give you more upfront costs. Depending on your location, you may be able to rent a commercial kitchen already equipped, or you may have to outfit it yourself. These are essentially a regular restaurant kitchen with no dine-in option: it’s all yours.
If you’re looking to rent an already established space, there are virtual brands already If you’re looking to rent an already established space, there are virtual brands already taking over in the United States: Cloud Kitchens, and Kitchen United are among the biggest brands so far.
Why ghost kitchens?
There are many advantages to adopting this model. The main appeal is that virtual kitchens cut down many of the everyday operational expenses of a regular restaurant model. As there’s no on-site dining, these kitchens can help cut costs so you have more time to focus on the quality of food and the efficiency of service. The costs may vary by layout, but some examples of these costs include:
- Uniforms. With takeout or delivery, there’s less of a need for a homogeneous staff look.
- Equipment. If you’re going to be using a shared kitchen, the resources are all shared and the space has already been equipped.
- Front of House. Eliminate the expenses of furniture, artwork, music, and other entertainment as no diners are on-site waiting to be served.
- Real Estate. Cut down real estate costs with less square footage and shared kitchens.
- Quick Turnaround Time. With the help of the virtual kitchen brands mentioned above, opening a new kitchen will only take about a month!
With many of these everyday costs cut down or eliminated, you’ll have more time to focus on the food you’re serving, or even testing new recipes and concepts to keep the menu fresh each season!
What are the challenges?
While there are many advantages to virtual kitchens, the main challenge is a big one. As you’ll no longer have the ability to remake wrong orders on-site or keep guests entertained during a long wait, your service will need to be more efficient all around.
Quick delivery is key to keeping your diners happy and coming back for more. You’ll need to decide whether you will be providing in-house delivery or using a third-party app. Delivery software education and staff training are imperative in order to successfully run a delivery-only kitchen.
To learn more, read How Can I Start a Delivery Service for My Restaurant on the Burkett Blog.
How will ghost kitchens impact the future of the foodservice industry?
The past 2 years may seem as if our industry has been completely transformed. In reality, the COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated an already growing trend. Online ordering was already slated to become a $38 billion industry by 2020. Of course, what they didn’t account for was a worldwide pandemic that would shut down on-site dining for the better part of 2020. This lead to an increased need for businesses to quickly adapt to the takeout and delivery model.
In other words, the emergence of more virtual kitchens is not changing the course of the foodservice industry, only quickening its pace. As the world becomes more digital, it only makes sense that our industry will follow. However, this won’t fully replace the social aspect of the traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants. Ghost kitchens will most likely be the future of fast casual, quick serve dining where meals are already optimized to go. The model’s long-term future is still to be determined, but at least for now they’re here to stay!
If you want more information on how to adopt the ghost kitchen model, we have a knowledgeable sales team just waiting to help you – Contact us today!