Restaurants are like people - they’re each unique and come in all shapes and sizes. When trying to figure out which restaurant style will suit your needs (and that of your market), it’s essential to have the whole picture. As such, we here at Cuboh felt it was time to clarify a few things about delivery-only restaurants.
So today, we’re breaking down what delivery-only restaurants are and how to open one. Let’s dive right in, yeah?
Let’s start with the super basics - definitions. After we’ve established the super simple stuff, we can move into the fun bit. You know, actually creating a delivery-only restaurant.
You may be sitting here shouting, “it’s in the name!” And, realistically, you’d be right - delivery-only restaurants are restaurants that only deliver: no dine-in, no pickup, just plain and straightforward delivery.
If, say, twenty years ago, you came up to me and said that food trucks and brick-and-mortar joints would be in the same bracket, I’d have laughed you out of my kitchen. Nowadays, it’s something we’ve just come to accept - restaurant operators can be successful in just about any capacity; it just takes dedication.
Delivery-only joints are going to be the same, mark my words. They come in a few forms, though each boils down to the same essentials.
Whether you call it a virtual kitchen, ghost kitchen, cloud kitchen/commissary, or delivery-only restaurant, they follow the same idea. The kitchen staff generally operates out of commissary kitchens, taking to-go and delivery orders exclusively from back of house; no FOH, no lobby, just the cooks and a place to make grub.
As with all business ventures, delivery-only restaurants have benefits and risks. Let’s start with the good news and discuss the benefits first:
The first and one of the most essential benefits of delivery-only restaurants is their flexibility. Delivery-only joints allow you to combine the best of food trucks and brick-and-mortar joints into a single package and let you flex your creative muscles.
This is what brought so many talented chefs into the food truck scene in the early to mid 2000s. The big appeal of food trucks was their flexibility and the possibility to change things up when desired.Chefs were tired of the requirements of brick-and-mortar dining and wanted to be able to adjust as needed, which is far harder to do in a single physical location.
Delivery-only restaurants allow the same thing - if you find that one menu item performs better than the other, you can easily pull and replace what’s needed.
You have lowered costs (which we’ll address shortly), meaning you can spend more on food and equipment. Best of all, delivery-only joints are primarily digital, meaning you have a much larger reach in terms of potential customers.
This is where most owners get excited. Delivery-only restaurants operate on a much different idea than traditional restaurants. In a brick-and-mortar joint, you’d need to pay for hosts, waiters, bartenders, bussers, dishwashers, and all sorts of support staff just to keep your front of house in order.
In delivery-only restaurants, you need none of those positions. You’re focused entirely on the food, and customers can come to pick it up from a window or have it delivered - but they won’t be inside.
This, along with the fact that commissary kitchens are generally far cheaper in terms of rent than a brick-and-mortar’s lease, makes it pretty clear why so many restauranteurs are opting for ghost and virtual kitchens.
As we mentioned above, with lowered overhead comes an increase in your budget. While you can certainly spend it all on gear, produce, and a third-party delivery service (or two), you also have the option to play Scrooge McDuck and just… hold onto it.
We’ve all wanted to dive face first into a room full of money, and that’s precisely what delivery-only restaurants allow you to do, if in a somewhat less elegant and cartoonish setting, that is.
This is where the chefs reading this will perk up. If you’re tired of the constraints of traditional dining (fine or otherwise), delivery-only joints are for you. When operating out of a brick-and-mortar, you quickly establish who your audience is and then tweak the menu to them. It’s not ideal, but it’s how our industry works, so we do it. If you want to be able to decide, “screw it, I’m making a special today with spicy Korean fried chicken,” even though you serve subs, you can do that.
Nobody is stopping you other than you.
And that’s exactly what’s drawn restauranteurs to the scene - they’re able to experiment and change things up. It allows you a touch of creativity, prevents things from getting monotonous with the same prep list day in and day out, and ensures your clientele doesn’t get tired, too.
While your mileage may (and will) vary based on where you live, this next point is another great thing to remember. Brick-and-mortar restaurants are limited by their location - the closer to the action you are, the more foot traffic you get.
But delivery-only restaurants are not the same. They have access to the entirety of your chosen third-party delivery service’s entire delivery radius, meaning you can come to the customers. While operators in smaller towns will likely find this more challenging, it still applies.
Overall, delivery-only restaurants are all about flexibility and adaptability.
As for downsides, there are a few, but they’re not as significant.
Each of the following bits blends into this overarching issue - your delivery-only restaurant will live and die by your online presence. This means you need to understand how to market your company and get it to appear on search engines. You’ll also need to build a website so customers can actually find you.
Or, alternatively, it means that you need to pay professionals to do that for you.
This can get spendy if done improperly, but using analytics tools from services like Cuboh allows you to monitor your business’s health in real-time and make adjustments as needed.
Old-school joints can go pen and paper - delivery-only joints do not have that luxury. If you’re not tech savvy, that means you’ll be in for a hell of a learning curve.
Once again, you can always hire a professional to do it for you, but half of the fun is learning how to do it yourself! Additionally, (surprise!) Cuboh offers several incredibly handy tools that make managing your POS and third-party delivery services a breeze - with no need for a developer or marketing team.
And finally, branding. This is perhaps the most crucial aspect of your delivery-only restaurant and ties directly into the tech and online presence aspects above.
If you don’t actively brand and market your restaurant, it will die. Seeing as it’s only online and not available for customers just to stumble across, you have to ensure it’s quickly and easily recognized. This comes in a number of forms, but most of them begin with your web design. Color schemes, design elements, logos, they all affect how well customers can recognize your brand.
Think about companies like Domino’s - they use simple colors (red, white, and blue) with a simple, easy-to-recognize symbol, a domino. You can recognize their branding from blocks away, on their webpage and social media, and everywhere in between - that’s what you want for your business.
As for actually opening the restaurant, this is where things are surprisingly simple. If you want a few extra tips and tricks on this topic, visit our guides to creating virtual kitchens and designing ghost kitchens.
This is actually a pretty straightforward process. If you’re wondering how to open a delivery-only restaurant, you need six things:
1. Kitchen Space
This will vary based on your location and what’s available, but the most common pick for this is commissary kitchens. Check out our virtual kitchen design guide linked above for more information on picking a location.
No duh! You need a menu that customers can peruse, otherwise nobody is ordering from you. Unsurprisingly, Cuboh makes menu design seamless and painless.
This is pretty obvious - you can’t serve food without cooks. So, hire a handful and you’re set!
This is where Cuboh comes into play. While you’ll also need a POS to take orders, a ticket machine to print receipts, and at least one third-party delivery service, Cuboh makes the process of consolidating them into one place effortless.
To make food, you need tools, simple as that. High-quality commissary kitchens will provide all of the gear (and even some produce) for you, but it’s always good to have backups available. Importantly, this includes things like napkins, silverware, and packaging for to-go food and drinks.
6. Statistics Tracking
This is the most boring part of the process, but you absolutely need to be capable of tracking your restaurant and website’s performance. Once again, Cuboh makes this incredibly simple and displays the most crucial KPIs and statistics for your restaurant in one, easy-to-use spot.
Once you’ve gotten the gear, staff, and location, the tech and statistics are pretty straightforward. Always start from the first point and move down this list to prevent surprises.
And, if you’re looking for ways to make your life as a restauranteur easier, give Cuboh a try. Believe it or not, we’ve done this for quite some time and, if I do say so myself, have gotten pretty dang good at this whole “delivery-only restaurant” thing.