A ghost kitchen, also known as a virtual restaurant, is a type of virtual brand that focuses specifically on online orders for food delivery. While some of these kitchens may also provide options for takeout or curbside pickup, the general idea of a ghost kitchen is that it has no contact with customers or the public. These kitchens are a relatively new alternative to the traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant where customers order from the menu on location and dine in. While they've also gone by the names dark kitchens and cloud kitchens, these ghost kitchens have risen in popularity alongside the explosive popularity of online orders that have followed COVID-19 in the last year.
The restaurant industry was hit harder than most during the pandemic, with many small restaurants being forced to close their doors, and those that survived had to rapidly adapt to new practices. Considering that over 60% of customers make online food orders every week, and approximately 30% spend $50 or more per order, it isn't hard to see how getting started with a ghost kitchen to supplement your regular kitchen space can greatly increase your monthly sales. Here are just four important tips for making the most of this new revenue stream.
1. Choose your location wisely.
Like with any business, the location of your ghost kitchen is extremely important. These kitchens are extremely popular in major cities around the United States, like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and plenty more. While real estate in such areas is usually super pricey and hard to come by, a ghost kitchen doesn't require nearly as much space as a typical restaurant storefront. Because of this, you may be able to secure a significantly better location than you could when running a brick-and-mortar business.
Since your ghost location is likely going to be known for your delivery service, you'll want to pick a popular residential location or a prime location on a busy street where lots of people work. Since virtual kitchens don't make contact with the public, you won't have to worry about selecting a location with a parking lot or anything of that nature, so you're really freed up to explore all possible options. As long as you have plenty of potential customer visibility, you should be able to run a successful restaurant business.
2. Invest in a restaurant point of sale system.
You can think of a point of sale (POS) system as being a single source of truth for restaurant operators and house staff. A POS system like ChowNow, Restolabs, GLoriaFood, or iMenu360 is good for independent restaurants and large chains alike, and it's especially perfect for the ghost kitchen concept. It gives you an easy way to automate as many tasks as possible, so restaurant operators can focus on the core tasks of running the business.
For starters, your restaurant POS can automatically process online orders and phone orders, and it will automatically create separate tickets for each, so you won't have to worry as much about confusing your house staff. Since delivery orders are your main focus with a ghost kitchen, simplifying them like this means that restaurant owners can spend more time perfecting new menus and ensuring the food quality is kept to the highest standards.
A restaurant POS can also track your menu items and ingredients, so inventory management is easier than ever. Speaking of your menu, your POS keeps track of your most popular items, so you can determine which ones deserve the most attention when you're building your online presence. The beauty of a ghost kitchen is that you can actually run as many virtual brands as you want from it, so you can focus on different menus for different diners from a single kitchen.
Even better, a reliable POS system can also automatically collect and analyze customer data, making it easy to determine who are the best customers for your restaurant brand. Now, it's easier to build customer relationships by contacting these customers with promotions, discounts, coupons, and other special offers to further encourage customer loyalty. This, combined with order efficiency, are the best ways to increase customer satisfaction.
3. Merge your third-party delivery services into one source.
There's no denying that mobile apps like GrubHub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Postmates have absolutely dominated online ordering for restaurants. Particularly since COVID, these online delivery apps have achieved major brand recognition, and lots of traditional restaurants and ghost kitchen brands alike want to work with them. You can try to connect your local restaurant with these major delivery services individually, but you may find that the commissions they charge can eat into your bottom line quickly.
What if there was a way to eliminate these high commission rates and combine all your food delivery apps on one tablet for a simplified flat monthly fee? Well, that's the exact service we provide at Cuboh, so you're in luck! With our online ordering platform, you'll be able to collect all of your delivery apps and orders on one device, so your ghost kitchen company will have no trouble tracking high demand for all of your customers' favorite foods. We do more than help you out with logistics, though.
Our platform can also help you with experimentation on your menu. Detailed analytics and reports are collected on one device, so you'll have data-driven real-time insights about your overhead costs and what's working. Maybe one of your virtual brands sells a lot of grain bowls, and you want to try replacing meat with plant-based products for that brand. Maybe you're thinking about selling meal kits for your most popular dishes like US Foods or Walmart, but you're not sure if it makes sense for your existing restaurant. We'll help you figure out how to turn any new concept into a success.
In addition to providing reports and uniting your third-party delivery platforms, we also have a restaurant partners program, where we'll feature your brick and mortar locations on our own app and help your different brand names for your ghost kitchen concept connect with mobile apps in your area. We'll even help you scale your delivery operations as orders to your ghost kitchen increase, all without additional cost.
4. Use smart packaging options.
Since you'll be preparing orders exclusively for pickup and delivery, you'll need to think about how your packaging represents your virtual restaurant brand. Whether you're shipping out large orders of pizza and a lot of chicken wings or you're wrapping individual burgers and sandwiches, customers expect stylish, convenient packaging that also sends the right message. For example, sustainable packaging options are extremely popular with environmentally-conscious customers and young people, and they can be a great statement for your new restaurant.
Better packaging doesn't just reduce waste. It also improves the brand image for your commercial kitchen, and using sustainable options like compostable packaging can help you stand out from kitchen facilities that haven't caught on yet. Naturally, each container is also an excuse to use your logo and further reinforce your brand with customers.
These are just a few tips that can help you with the ghost kitchen business model. Once you have your order flow going, you'll likely discover even more low-cost and great ideas to improve operations.