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Want to know more about ghost kitchens?

Mar, 28 2022
Want to know more about ghost kitchens?

Everything you need to know about ghost kitchens

‘Ghost kitchen’ is one of those terms that’s found its way into the lexicon over the past couple of years. It’s a Covid-era term, but, as a concept, ghost kitchens are very much here to stay.

We’ve recently teamed up with Virtual X Kitchen, a Washington D.C-area ghost kitchen operator, so we’re currently undergoing a ghost kitchen masterclass with some of the finest in the business. We’re so proud of our move into the virtual kitchen arena that we want to share what we’ve learnt with you!

Here’s our guide to everything ghost kitchens, from what they are, the benefits they bring and even how to open one yourself!

What are ghost kitchens?

Ghost kitchens (also known as virtual kitchens, or cloud kitchens) are the premises from which a delivery or takeaway-only food service business prepares food and operates its business. These kitchens run like restaurant kitchens, but they don’t have a front-of-house, waiting staff or a store front. 

It’s easy to walk past a ghost kitchen and not realise it’s there. Some are in industrial estates or within private homes or pubs. Others can be found forming part of kitchens within regular customer-facing restaurant businesses.

Because off-premises dining businesses only need a kitchen and an order preparation area, location is less important and commercial property costs can be kept much lower than for a regular restaurant or cafe. Although you won’t see a storefront for a ghost kitchen business, you will be familiar with their brand if you use delivery apps, or follow them on social media. THIS is their real home, not the bricks and mortar space in which they actually create the food. 

Why are ghost kitchens so popular?

It’s not difficult to see why the ghost kitchen model is taking off. Fewer overheads, staff costs and customer service demands, but potentially just as much custom as a regular eatery. These days, and particularly since the pandemic hit, attitudes to off-premisis consumption of food has changed dramatically. People are now eating more takeout food either at home, outside, or in another establishment that encourages customers to order in. 

Delivery and food order apps have removed the hurdles that were sometimes in the way of ordering a takeout meal. It’s now easier than ever to peruse menus, order and pay from the comfort of, well, wherever you happen to be!

How to set up a ghost kitchen

If you’re interested in setting up a ghost kitchen business, you’re not alone. With the global ghost kitchen market set to grow to $71.4bn by 2017, up from just $43.1bn in 2019, it’s easy to see the appeal from a growth perspective. 

During the pandemic, we all became much more dependent on takeaways to scratch that ‘eating out’ itch. Takeaways became the favourite way for people to treat themselves at a time when dining-in was banned for months on end. The result was more users downloading ordering and delivery apps and demand for takeout food absolutely booming. 

Many of our customers have reported an increase in demand for takeaway options and lots of people we speak to are considering opening a ghost kitchen to cope with this growing demand. Here’s our advice on how to go about making your ghost kitchen dreams a reality:

 

  • Research other ghost kitchen businesses in your area

Sussing out your competition is important as part of the preparation for setting up a ghost kitchen. Some healthy competition is great, and means there’s already an established customer base for this kind of business. Consider how you will offer something new to consumers in the area. After all, when it comes to ghost kitchens, your market will be ultra-local.

 

  • Sort your ghost kitchen premises

Researching potential venues for your ghost kitchen is one of the first steps you should take. The cost of leasing premises for cooking and preparation will be a key cost, along with equipment, staff, packaging, marketing and delivery.

 

  • Costs and planning

Even if you’re opening a ghost kitchen as an extension to your existing restaurant business, you’ll need to make a business plan for your new venture. 

 

  • Think about your ghost kitchen branding and marketing

Consider the name and branding you’ll need to stand out on delivery apps, make your menu look appealing and help to spread the word via social media. Social media marketing will be the main way to promote your ghost kitchen locally, so focus on this medium when considering your brand.

 

Give plenty of thought to the food you will be offering through your ghost kitchen. It needs to be quick to prepare and will also benefit from maintaining quality after delivery. Partnership with a digital menu provider, or digital ordering service, like Leslie, can help you reach more customers. Using our tech, students in University of Maryland residences can order food from a virtual food hall provided by Virtual X Kitchen. The students can choose from any Virtual X Kitchen menu with fast delivery times and very low fees. 

 

  • Create a website and get marketing!

Finally, creating a website is an important part of the ghost kitchen start-up process, unless you already have a restaurant with a website. Remember to target off-premises diners and also consider partnering with established delivery apps.

 

Running a ghost kitchen can be a super cost-effective way to get started in the hospitality industry. Overheads and staffing costs can be much lower than those involved with opening a traditional eater and the profit margins can be generous. Selecting your partners carefully will have a major impact on your success, so we advise taking care to consider your options and your customer base before making these decisions.