It's no secret that ghost kitchens are popping up everywhere, as businesses look at new ways of providing value to customers without sacrificing profit. During the coronavirus pandemic, major celebrity chefs and Michelin-starred restaurants have turned to ghost kitchens to bring their food to homes around the world. Major culinary cities such as Las Vegas saw chefs turning their restaurants into ghost kitchens, and celebrities such as Mariah Carey offer delivery-only cookies through a partnership with restaurateur Robert Earl. Creating a multiple kitchen concept in a single space has even inspired some unique food collaborations, such as the Shake Shack x Mama's TOO burger collab in New York City.
Virtual kitchen concepts are also arriving into the market place, utilizing ghost kitchens to prepare food and deliver it to customers with no physical establishment. These virtual restaurants are continuing to gain popularity as they often offer customers flavors and food fusion items that are not seen on many delivery menus.
You may be considering using a ghost kitchen to reduce your overhead, or you may be ready to join the many exciting virtual restaurants that continue to open each week. Or maybe you have a multi kitchen concept to showcase the diversity of your food offering. Virtual dining still requires a physical staff, and in many cases, these employees will work daily in ghost kitchens, which, to be fair, are not known as the most exciting of spaces.
While working in a ghost kitchen can be economically efficient for restaurants, it takes away many of the joys that come with being in a physical establishment. Yes, the smells of the kitchen are still there, but the atmosphere is suddenly missing. Conversation from tables echoing in the air, the teamwork between the front of house and back of house teams to deliver excellent service. Not only are these things missing, so is the pleasure of getting to plate food and have it sent out to guests. Instead, your delicious creation is stuffed into a (hopefully sustainable) take-out package and delivered to its destination.
Ghost kitchens are not the most "fun" work environment, so empowering your staff should be a top priority. Luckily a lot of the formalities of working in a traditional go away in a ghost kitchen so you can encourage a more relaxed atmosphere. If employees are not delivering to customers, consider allowing them not to need to wear a uniform at work. Cooking the same few dishes or boxing food can feel tedious and monotonous. In order to keep your employees feeling good at work try to incorporate a few of these tips:
Don't skip family meal
In restaurant culture, family meal is a time to connect and get on the same page as a team. The ritual of eating can also help to improve the performance of your staff because they begin or end the work shift being feed (aka being full). While it may be easy to think that family meal has no place in a ghost kitchen, it's these small gestures that will empower your staff to work more effectively.
Music is underrated. It can change an environment instantaneously. It can put people in a good mood, increase concentration and improve workflow. Ensure that your work environment is filled with good energy so that people can enjoy their time on the job because you don't have to worry about a restaurant "image" you can let employees play their own music or work together to create a collaborative playlist. Helping to create a friendly work environment will keep your employees happy and focused.
While some team incentives don't work out of a restaurant setting, there are still ways to encourage your employees to increase their performance. Try giving out incentives for the fastest prep time or best customer reviews. Many delivery apps allow all customers to say if the food was tasty, so consider rewarding chefs who consistently receive high marks during their shift.
Be mindful of scheduling.
Working a double in a ghost kitchen is much different than working a double in a restaurant setting. Long shifts will feel extra long when you are in a ghost kitchen for the entire day, so try to space out scheduling so that your employees don't get burnt out. Sometimes there might not be much to do if delivery orders are low, so ensure staff accordingly.
Don't skimp on tech
If there was one virtual kitchen tool to make sure you install in your ghost kitchen, it's up-to-date technology. Efficiency in ghost kitchens is largely dependent on tech, as customers order through delivery apps and payments are processed via the cloud. Empower your employees by making sure they have fast and reliable internet in place, as well as the necessary equipment (computers, tablets, phones) to accurately and quickly take orders. Virtual eateries need systems that work in real-time to ensure that orders are fulfilled correctly, delivered to the right person, and payment and other matters are handled with minimal error