A Look Over the Environmental Footprint of Ghost Kitchens

As energy consumption levels continue to grow across the globe, more and more businesses are looking for energy-efficient models to help conserve costs and protect the environment. Each industry has its own methods for saving energy -- automobile manufacturers are promoting hybrid cars, shipping companies are offering biodegradable packaging and restaurant owners are embracing the ghost kitchen concept.

What Is A Ghost Kitchen?

A ghost kitchen, or a virtual kitchen, is a type of restaurant that communicates with customers digitally. Unlike a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant, there is no in-person dining -- ghost kitchens rely entirely on online orders, takeout and food delivery.

Ghost kitchens began rising in popularity during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, when social distancing guidelines rendered the in-person aspect of dining useless. As mass vaccinations continue to encourage restaurants to reopen, some people have wondered whether the ghost kitchen concept will disappear. However, trends suggest that ghost kitchens aren't going anywhere.

60% of customers in the U.S. order takeout at least once a week, and this number is only expected to increase. Restaurant owners also seem confident about the success of ghost kitchens -- Uber Eats, one of the most popular apps for food delivery, has helped existing restaurants open over 4,000 virtual models. Not only is this concept good for business, but it's also beneficial to the environment.

Energy Consumption in Ghost Kitchens

Considering that climate change continues to be a pressing issue, finding sustainable ways to run a business is becoming increasingly important. By eliminating the in-person dining portion of restaurants, ghost kitchens end up being far more sustainable. Some of the things they conserve include:

  • Electricity and lighting
  • Heating and cooling
  • Water
  • Space

Because ghost kitchens owners don't serve customers, they don't have to worry about lighting, heating and cooling an entire dining area. They also don't need to supply plates and silverware or run a dishwasher every night, which helps conserve water. Finally, ghost kitchens are far smaller than traditional restaurants, which means that they can be built in more sustainable ways.

Ghost kitchens don't require locations that look good or have a high amount of foot traffic, which lets them take advantage of spaces that might otherwise go to waste. For instance, Reef Kitchens used empty parking lots to create a series of ghost kitchens. Some owners even share the same space and equipment.

Ways To Increase Energy-Efficiency

Although ghost kitchens are inherently more sustainable than brick-and-mortar restaurants, there are still changes you can make to increase your energy-efficiency. Being more environmentally-friendly is a great way to do your part for the planet while differentiating yourself from other businesses. People are naturally drawn to eco-friendly businesses, so sharing your sustainable practices online can attract new customers. Some practices to try out include:

  • Offering biodegradable takeout containers
  • Using locally sourced ingredients
  • Donating unused food
  • Encouraging eco-friendly practices

While ghost kitchen owners don't need to waste water on washing dishes and silverware, they do have to provide takeout containers for their customers. Materials like paper and cardboard are preferable to plastic because they're biodegradable and can be recycled. Sustainable supplies can also be used to create more aesthetically pleasing packaging, which can make your business stand out. Sushi Dept, a ghost kitchen in Montreal, caught attention due to its recyclable fuschia-colored takeout boxes.

Another way to conserve energy is by getting ingredients from nearby areas as opposed to wholesale distributors. This simultaneously reduces the gas emissions that typically arise due to transportation and supports the local community. You should also make an effort to reduce your food wastage -- unused food often winds up in landfills, where it releases methane and contributes to greenhouse gases and global warming. If you suspect that you won't be able to use certain ingredients before they expire, consider donating them to a local food bank.

Finally, you should always try to encourage eco-friendly practices at your restaurant. This includes turning off the lights, providing recycling and composting bins and limiting your electrical use by using more efficient restaurant technology.

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