The saying goes that there’s no place like home—and for diners across the United States, they’d rather enjoy their Pad Thai in their favorite slippers at home.
The food delivery market has exploded with more people ordering their meals online and getting them delivered conveniently to their homes. In fact, 60% of US consumers report ordering delivery or takeout at least once a week.
With the rise in demand for food delivery, restaurateurs have risen to the challenge with a restaurant alternative: ghost kitchens.
No, this isn’t a new Halloween eatery concept! Keep reading to learn how restaurateurs are delivering delectable eats to their customers.
What is a Ghost Kitchen?
Ghost kitchens are not as ghoulish as they sound.
A ghost kitchen is a somewhat newer concept resulting from the rise in demand for food delivery. A ghost kitchen is a virtual brand of a restaurant that does not have a physical eat-in location.
A chef or team of cooks, not ghosts, use an owned or rented kitchen space to prepare yummy dishes. While leasing a dedicated kitchen space is popular, other often cheaper options are available. Commissary kitchens are commercial-grade kitchens for food service providers to legally prepare, cook, and store food and equipment. Either option is viable—it is up to the ghost kitchen owner’s discretion.
It’s not enough to make delicious food—it has to make it to the customer to enjoy! Food delivery services fill the need for reliable food transportation. A national survey showed that the average person uses two food delivery apps (UberEats and Grubhub are amongst the most popular apps) and orders food about three times per month. Nonetheless, ghost kitchen owners who prefer to keep food delivery in-house can enlist the help of delivery personnel.
Ghost kitchens are popping up everywhere but don’t confuse them with another popular restaurant alternative—virtual restaurants. Keep reading to learn more.
Virtual Restaurant vs. Ghost Kitchen: What’s The Difference?
Ghost kitchen. Virtual restaurant. They are the same thing, right? Wrong.
Many use these interchangeably, but while they are similar in concept, they are not the same.
Virtual restaurants are delivery-only brands that are usually a branch of an existing restaurant. A virtual restaurant may offer a menu for delivery orders only, different from their physical location. (Sorry to the customers who love the extra slurpy noodles, but you’re going to have to visit the restaurant to enjoy them.) A ghost kitchen does not have a storefront—they are delivery-only restaurants.
So do you have an established physical brand that you’re trying to capitalize on in the virtual space? Or are you offering an exclusive fare that foodies will only find online? That’s for you to determine and market accordingly.
Pros and Cons of a Ghost Kitchen Company
Ghost kitchens aren’t scary; in fact, they are good for business.
In the past five years, food delivery service revenue increased 204% and is projected to continue in an upward trend with the help of delivery-only restaurants. Foodservice insights firm Technomic projects a 25% yearly rise in ghost restaurants from 2020 to 2025, driven mainly by the pandemic.
It is safe to say that the virtual kitchen boom is poised to outlive the pandemic itself. However, there are pros and cons to starting a delivery-only restaurant, and we lay out the comparisons here.
Pros of a Delivery-Only Setup
- Quick and easy startup. Foot traffic is not an issue with a ghost restaurant. Restaurant owners can reduce operating expenses and take advantage of areas with lower rent (or work out of their homes) without the need to put up signages and attract walk-ins.
- Significantly lower overhead cost. Let’s take a moment to do the math. No renovations. No front of house upkeep. Reduced staff. If you haven’t guessed it yet, starting a delivery-only restaurant is significantly cheaper than opening a restaurant. In addition, you can more efficiently control restaurant labor costs.
- Larger customer base. Most adults these days have a smartphone glued to their hand these days with multiple food-delivery apps installed. This can be lucrative for delivery-only restaurateurs who leverage apps like UberEats and GrubHub. Online visibility can help your restaurant reach a broader market instead of being dependent on locals and foot traffic.
Cons of a Delivery-Only Setup
- Food must be transit-ready. This may be a bummer to chefs focused on engaging the five senses with their culinary concoctions, but the sugar lattice won’t survive the car trip to the customer. Your menu should showcase only those items that will stay intact while traveling from your kitchen to the customer. This also means using containers with proper insulation, adding little cups for setting sauces and dressings aside, and ensuring that nothing leaks or spills in transit.
- Online presence is pivotal. If you haven’t already, it’s time to brush up on your internet literacy. Since there’s no physical store to speak of, your website and social media will need to be updated regularly to engage customers.
- Third-party delivery firms’ customer service practices. In an eat-in restaurant, you can monitor the customer experience from beginning to end. However, ghost kitchens have little to zero control over how the delivery apps provide their services. A customer who had a bad experience with the delivery service that handled your food might not want to order again. Plus, they’re expensive. Third-party delivery firms typically take 25% to 30% off your sales.
Staff Your Ghost Kitchen with Qwick
With ghost kitchens popping up across the country, the restaurant industry will never be the same. Yes, it will be sad to see those familiar imprints on red vinyl seats go. But delivery-only restaurants are a compelling innovation that allows food-loving business owners to focus on the food.
You may not need front of house staff for a delivery-only restaurant, but with all eyes (and taste buds) now on the culinary experience, you need reliable line, prep, and fry cooks as well as dishwashers and other support staff.
You can do it the time-consuming way and receive dozens of resumes, or you can do it the Qwick way.
With Qwick, you can tap into a network of skilled hospitality freelancers eager to pick up shifts at your business, saving you time and money. We know that restaurant staffing can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be.
To start staffing your ghost kitchen, create an account with Qwick today!