Ever heard of a ghost kitchen? If not, don’t worry, because that’s kind of the point.
Ghost kitchens aren’t your typical approach to the restaurant industry - they don’t have tables, don’t have servers, and don’t have a front-of-house.
What is a Ghost Kitchen
So, what exactly is the meaning of “ghost kitchen”?
A ghost kitchen is a kitchen or “restaurant” that offers meals to consumers through delivery only. It’s entirely virtual and works out of a commercial kitchen. There is no traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant front where customers can eat and dine in.
They’re popular due to their low overhead costs, ease of start-up, increased market reach, and stable scalability.
Although their popularity accelerated during COVID, the ghost kitchen concept was already in existence for a few years, and we now have a bunch of brands that are currently innovating the space and influencing the future.
Whether you call it a ghost kitchen, virtual kitchen, dark kitchen, delivery-only, or cloud kitchen, this restaurant model is becoming increasingly popular. With no signs of this rapid growth slowing down, it’s no surprise to hear that the food delivery industry is estimated to be worth $200 billion by 2025.
The Rise of Ghost Kitchens
With the increased demand for food delivery, a booming gig economy, and a resurgence of restaurant technology, we’re seeing significant growth in the virtual model.
That’s because restaurants can make a shift that involves low overhead and labor costs, ease of start-up, access to new customers, and stable scalability.
And this trend has only accelerated during the pandemic.
With 52% of global consumers comfortable with ordering from a delivery-only restaurant, it’s projected that ghost kitchens will capture up to 50% of drive-thru services, 50% of takeaway food services, and 25% of dine-in food service. This projection is leading the ghost kitchen industry to be worth a trillion dollars by 2030.
“It’s projected that ghost kitchens will capture up to 50% of drive-thru services, 50% of takeaway food services, and 25% of dine-in food service.”
Here’s an example of just how effective the ghost kitchen model can be.
With limitations on dining-room occupancy and reduced seating during the pandemic, restaurant group BBQ Holdings had their sales drop and their projections halved.
As their locations stood idle, they shifted to virtual and built a ghost kitchen that served burgers and beers. And the transition was a success. Adding delivery-only concepts to their existing restaurants could produce $6,000 to $12,000 in additional sales per week.
The ghost kitchen concept was also more profitable. BBQ Holdings identified that with their ghost kitchen concepts, if a customer spent $10, they’d expect their profit to be $3 or $4, whereas, with their typical sit-down model, their profit estimate is usually around $1.50.
“With their ghost kitchen concepts, if a customer spent $10, they’d expect their profit to be $3 or $4, whereas, with their typical sit-down model, their profit estimate is usually around $1.50.”
If you’re intrigued by the ghost kitchen model, you’re not alone.
Delivery platform Uber Eats says it has more than 10,000 delivery-only restaurants on its platform. Meanwhile, host kitchens, celebrity chefs, and big-chain restaurants are jumping on the bandwagon too.
If you’re considering starting a ghost kitchen of your own, then read on. We’ve created the ultimate guide to building a successful ghost kitchen, from operations to technology and marketing.
Let’s dive in.
Examples of Ghost Kitchens
Mr. Beast Burger is an overnight sensation that took the ghost kitchen space by storm by opening 300 virtual locations in one night. Today, they are one of the top-selling apps in the Apple App Store, and within four months of opening, they had already sold 1 million burgers.
They are now looking to expand globally, becoming a dominating franchise in the ghost kitchen space. Their model allows restaurants to add to their existing revenue by licensing the Mr. Beast Burger brand. By utilizing their existing equipment, they state restaurants can earn up to $500+ in profits daily by adding this delivery-only concept to their business.
Kitchen United operates as a food hall, giving brands a kitchen space to rent. Their goal is to build kitchen centers that have what you need; from IoT’s, converter belts, online order consolidation, pick-up center, and more, so you can grow your business. By the end of 2021, they will have opened an additional 16 locations across the US, giving more restaurants the chance to increase their customer base in highly populated areas. They’ve recently acquired Zuul, a virtual food hall for restaurants.
Why Launch a Ghost Kitchen?
It's doubtful that the traditional walk-in restaurant will ever go away completely. People enjoy the ambiance, tableside service, and daily fare offered by a sit-down establishment; however, there is a growing preference for the perfect mix of convenience and quality — particularly among millennials. Research shows that millennials, when compared with younger and older generations, allocate a more significant portion of their budget to prepared food.
Whatever the motivation, ghost kitchens are already answering the increased demand for food delivery options.
With the most purchasing power across generations, millennials are driving change in how the market responds to their needs. Millennials choose to spend their hard-earned dollars at businesses that have a customer-first mindset with a side of convenience. Unlike their older counterparts, millennials spend more on restaurants and, paired with their preference for on-demand service, naturally use delivery apps more as well.
Advantages of Ghost Kitchens
According to the National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Performance Index, the restaurant industry showed substantial gains for the second consecutive month as of December 2019. Supported by a boost in same-store restaurant sales and increasing participation in third-party apps, the outlook is good for restaurants.
But if you’re starting a business today with the goal of being lean and profitable, a brick-and-mortar restaurant may not be the best option.
Enter ghost kitchens.
This emerging restaurant concept is growing rapidly because of its low barrier to entry and many benefits:
- Lower start-up costs - The most apparent advantage of ghost kitchens is cost savings. Because there is no need to find a location with curbside appeal, furnish the interior, or hire front-line staff–the overall start-up costs are minimal compared to those of traditional restaurant businesses.
- Increase incremental revenue - Consider the above Mr. Beast burger example. Restaurants are increasing their income by hundreds of dollars per day just with their existing equipment.
- Improved margins - Ghost kitchens tend to have better margins without the need to pay for restaurant rent and front-of-house staff. In the BBQ Holdings example above, the restaurant saw margins increase by 100% to 167%.
- Expanded customer base - Physical locations limit your potential customer base to those within range. While delivery-only methods also have range limitations, they will boost your potential reach.
- Flexibility: If you need to test a concept to determine its viability, ghost kitchens provide that type of flexibility without breaking the bank. If you discover that something isn't working as planned, it’s easy to re-examine, re-strategize and re-launch without a ton of roadblocks.
- Creativity: There's no limit to what a restauranteur can do with a ghost kitchen. You can have complete creative control over the brand, menu, and ingredients if you want it. Some ghost kitchens even have multiple brands operating out of a single location.
With so many benefits, it’s no surprise that ghost kitchens have seen such rapid growth. Along with that growth has come innovation. “Ghost kitchens” is generally used as a catch-all term, but these businesses come in a handful of different shapes and sizes.
Different Types of Ghost Kitchens
Although the terms are interchangeable, there are differences between a ghost kitchen and a virtual kitchen. When opening a ghost kitchen, it’s essential to understand how each is different, as it will define how you run your business:
A ghost kitchen rents a commercial kitchen space or a kitchen from a traditional brick and mortar. It’s also a catch-all phrase to refer to any virtual restaurant business models such as dark kitchen, concept kitchen, cloud kitchen, and a delivery-only restaurant.
Pros: there’s flexibility to set up in a location that best meets your needs. Meaning, you can choose a site with the best space for your team in an area with a good density of potential customers.
Cons: with flexibility comes cost. One location may be more expensive than the other, and you’ll also need to determine how your operations will be set up.
A virtual brand or kitchen focuses on developing brands and menus, whereas the labor and production are outsourced or licensed to restaurants or other ghost kitchens. When licensing, virtual brands usually take a royalty cut from their partner or pay their partners for their services, similar to how a franchise operates.
Pros: your focus is solely on developing virtual brands and menus. This means if you like to manage the business operations side, such as menu creation, brand development, marketing, packaging, and sales, this could be a fit.
Cons: since your priority is on development, you need to place efforts into growing your brand(s). You need to generate excitement and traffic to your brand from the moment you create the concept.
This means you’re looking at your digital efforts and understanding how to analyze your data and identify growth opportunities. You need to be ready to understand what the data means, find ways to improve upon decreases in engagement, orders, and traffic, and grasp onto opportunities.
RELATED READING: How Virtual Brands are Disrupting the Restaurant Industry
This type of ghost kitchen owns the equipment and hires cooking staff to produce the food for one or more third-party brands. These are who virtual kitchens can partner with to execute on their concept.
Pros: you don’t have to manage the brand or menu; your focus is on executing the concept, managing orders, and completing sales—lots of opportunities to grow your revenue the more virtual brands you onboard.
Cons: you’ll need to have discussions with your partners to determine if the concept will meet the needs of your space. Evaluate if you have enough staff on hand, the proper skills to execute, and the type of brands you want to be associated with. Negative impacts on your business could create risks with future partners and operations; if your values are not aligned, it won’t be a fit.
Rent their kitchens to virtual brands or ghost kitchens. They’re typically brick-and-mortar restaurants offering their kitchen space when underutilized. Whereas a ghost kitchen traditionally rents from a commercial space.
Pros: as a business owner with restaurant space, you have the opportunity to generate additional revenue by simply renting out your kitchen space when not in use.
Cons: you’ll need to determine when exactly your kitchen is not being used (this also includes prep time) and how that will affect your primary business.
- Can you adjust your hours to better accommodate hosting a ghost kitchen and still make your revenue goals?
- Is your kitchen space large enough that you can have your operations and another business simultaneously?
If you offer only breakfast or brunch or only dinner service, your kitchens have larger chunks of unutilized time that can be rented out that won’t create conflict with your other business. A restaurant that does a lunch and dinner service might need to consider the logistics more closely.
Food halls offer a commercial kitchen space to share with other brands from which customers can order. These spaces can host multiple brands coming out of numerous kitchen locations, such as Kitchens United or Coho Creative Kitchens.
They’re perfect low-risk and low-cost alternatives for operators as they have all the technology and tools ready for use and can provide support in other areas such as marketing or labor. The tenants pay a monthly fee, and the food hall has all the technology set up, so orders arrive at your space without any hassle. You still get to manage your ingredients and kitchen space.
Pros: a food hall has all the necessary equipment and tools a dark kitchen operator will need—kitchen space, technology, support, and a customer base. This results in an excellent low-cost option for operators as they can just focus on their own business and food.
Cons: since everything is already set up, there’s less choice in how you run your business because the food hall decides this. Plus, consider when a customer orders from multiple vendors. In that case, you would still be charged the full fee from the delivery platforms, and your tip would get split up between the other vendors.
RELATED READING: The Complete Guide to Food Halls (Plus 8 Tips for Success)
Branding + Menu Creation
Once you have determined how you will operate your ghost kitchen, the next step is determining your cloud kitchen’s brand.
Branding is all about differentiating your business and cultivating a particular perception of your restaurant in the minds of consumers.
Branding a ghost kitchen is not unlike restaurant branding, so think back to that process if you already have your restaurant.
We’ve written about the importance and process of restaurant branding before, but below are key steps:
Define your mission–ask yourself: who are we? What are we doing? What makes us unique? And what are our goals? The answers to these questions will guide your brand as it develops, create your story, and build brand identity.
Understand your customers–who will your brand serve? Similar to analyzing who is in the surrounding area of a restaurant front’s location, consider the demographics in your area and how younger generations tend to be more active on delivery apps.
When you understand what type of customer you’re trying to bring in, it becomes easier to tailor your messaging and imagery to that particular audience.
Review your competitors–once you have identified who your ghost kitchen is and what it will offer, look at similar competitors in your area. To execute your concept better than anyone else, you must understand what your competitors are doing, what they excel at, and how you can stand out.
When you’ve identified competitor weaknesses, you can incorporate what they lack into your brand or adapt what’s working for them and improve upon it. By researching your competitors, you’ll be able to better position yourself and understand your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Craft your personality–putting the first three steps together, you can start to create the look and feel of your dark kitchen. How you communicate to your customers plays a significant role in whether they resonate with your brand.
And your brand should permeate every aspect of your marketing. Your website, social media, delivery app profiles, packaging, and food presentation all contribute to the overall experience and perception – and therefore, your brand.
For example, consider your visual branding. Of course, this includes your logo, but it also consists of the color, fonts, and design choices you make as well.
Additionally, high-quality imagery helps to communicate the quality of your product, adds to your overall credibility, and showcases your food in the best way.
Brand messaging is equally important. Online-delivery apps don’t provide you with many opportunities to talk about your brand, so that means that menu item names and descriptions become incredibly valuable. Describing a lasagna as “just like grandma used to make” will invoke different emotions than simply listing the ingredients.
Let’s look at a quick example. The Slanted Door is an upscale Vietnamese restaurant with a few locations across the US. While they aren’t a ghost kitchen, we can still learn from their branding on delivery apps.
First, they have a well-designed logo. It’s eye-catching, easy to read, and looks like a premium logo.
Second, The Slanted Door plates and presents their food well and use high-quality photos. Most people ordering food online are savvy and demand excellent value for their money. High-quality imagery helps establish trust in your brand by making a great first impression and showing the quality of your food.
Third, they describe the dishes in a way that communicates quality. Online ordering apps don’t provide you with much real estate for writing, so making what little space you have count is essential. “Wok stir-fried cubed filet mignon” is considerably more appetizing and enticing than “cooked pieces of steak.”
We’re just scratching the surface of what branding truly entails, so if you’re interested in learning more, then check out our article Restaurant Branding 101.
For ghost kitchens, their brand becomes the foundation for their menu and is one of the essential factors in making the venture a success.
A ghost kitchen can create as many concepts as they’d like, but each must be focused. They can either:
- Create their own menus from scratch
- Create spinoffs off existing menu items
- Or license existing brands from other virtual brands
1. Owning Your Menu
When owning your menu and brand, you’re in complete control. There’s no royalty or licensing fee, which means there's no corporate office telling you which ingredients to use, how to prepare food, guidelines for marketing, and so forth.
Benefits: you have the freedom to manage your brand and operations as you see fit. If you want to try different specials, you can add that to your menu. If locally sourced ingredients are a vital part of your brand, you have the power to source that. You’re not restrained by a licensed organization dictating how to manage your operations, such as menu items, ingredients used, source of ingredients, or technology required to run.
Thoughts to consider: the menu should be simple and easy to execute. You don’t want to create complex meals because these meals will be delivered directly to the customer and not to a table. You need to consider delivery time and presentation so that the food doesn’t go bad or fall apart while in transport. Think pasta vs. an ahi tuna stack–the latter has a high risk of falling apart during delivery.
A great example is Mochido, based in Vancouver, Canada, which offers its customers mochi donuts. Their concept is to make mochi, a traditional Japanese treat, and turn it into donuts; their brand and menu offering is unique, easy to create and replicate, and is easy to deliver.
Same with Bad Abbots Burgers, with burgers, there’s a lot of flavor combinations and ingredients that can be used to create something new or innovative. Again, it’s a product that that’s easy create and replicate and travels well.
If you’re a restaurant looking to transition into the virtual space, analyze your current menu and use your knowledge of food to think of a concept that meets the above requirements: easy to create, package, and deliver. If your restaurant caters to pick up or delivery already, then you’re already ahead of the game and can utilize your current experience.
But the benefit of freedom is also a challenge. It means you have to do it all yourself and don’t have an established audience or network of other restaurants to rely on.
2. Spinoffs From Existing Menu Items
This approach involves identifying popular menu items and creating a new brand based on those items.
Benefits: you can take an already popular menu item and expand on it. For example, if your restaurant offers a variety of pub food, but your best-sellers are a roast beef sandwich and fried chicken sandwich, you could expand on that concept and create a sandwich-only ghost kitchen.
Another benefit is that you already have an existing audience you can promote to. Using your existing communication channels, you can create hype and interest for when your new concept launches, so your new virtual brand hits the ground running.
From an operations standpoint, because you are expanding on an already existing menu item, you already understand the fundamentals that go into creating that type of product, the ingredients, flow, and the operations behind it; you have a competitive advantage.
Thoughts to consider: with low barriers to entry, ghost kitchens make it easier than ever for restaurants to test different spinoffs and concepts. You can review your best-selling items and explore alternative combinations and formats without risking any damage to your existing brand. If you test out a new idea and it doesn’t work out, it will not reflect on your existing restaurant because the spinoff was under a different brand.
Moving to a delivery-only business model also comes with challenges, particularly around food quality and delivery time.
From the time the person orders online to delivery, arrival, and unpackaging, it could be anywhere from a 15-40 minute wait. So, in addition to ensuring that your spinoff products maintain the same standards, you also need to make sure your food arrives hot, presentable, and on time. Keep this in mind when you’re selecting which menu items to spin-off.
3. Licensing Existing Brands
Licensed virtual brands are solely virtual—they have no commercial kitchen; their purpose is to just license their brand. Mr.Beast Burger is an excellent example of a licensed brand that took the restaurant industry by storm.
Benefits: Similar to franchising an established restaurant chain, licensing an existing brand means you don’t have to worry so much about marketing or creating a menu. If you’re opening a Dunkin’ Donuts, then all of your marketing materials and menu items have already been made–all you need to look after is operations.
That means that you get to operate as an independent business but have the support of a larger network from the licensed brand. Compared to other models, there’s a great benefit in using a licensed brand due to the pre-established brand awareness, company reputation, and audience desire.
Things to consider: before agreeing to license an existing brand, you must first do your research and be aware of the associated costs, such as:
- Revenue split or royalties—how much do you expect to pay the brand for using the license
- Competitive radius—are there other licenses in the area or city; what about competitors offering a similar product?
- Included marketing efforts—what will they execute on for you (commercials, paid advertising, social media, collateral for your restaurant front) vs. what marketing efforts you need to do yourself (social media, local advertising such as radio or online advertising).
- Equipment requirements—is there special equipment you’d need to purchase to create the end product?
- Ingredients—is there anything special you’ll need to order; high-cost components; can you select where to source, or are you obligated to go with a particular supplier?
- Rules or mandatory agreements to represent the brand—some licenses have required guidelines you must follow when representing their brand. It’s important to understand if there are any, and if so, what it could mean for you as an operator.
Adding a Dark Kitchen to Your Brick-and-Mortar?
If you’re looking to add an online ordering revenue stream to your in-person restaurant, you’ll need to consider what type of ghost kitchen will complement your existing business.
You already have a lot of the overhead purchased and situated in your restaurant. The additional costs you’ll need to consider are the technology for your virtual kitchen and human resources.
Consider systems that work together. Cuboh is integrated with major point of sales systems, delivery platforms, and white-label apps, offering you a consolidated platform to manage your online orders efficiently.
Ghost Kitchen Tech
In the last couple of years, restaurant technology has innovated significantly.
There are solutions like Cuboh that can help fill the gaps in your operations. To do this, we’re not only looking to solve one function of your business but also address several needs all at once, giving you a centralized system you can rely on.
With the use of restaurant technology, it’s now one of the best times to open a ghost kitchen because products are evolving with you, and companies want to cater to your needs faster than before. But before you jump the gun on adopting multiple systems, it’s important to evaluate your current needs and estimated growth. If you’re a lean business, perhaps a human resource platform isn’t the best use of your money.
However, a set of tools is required for your ghost kitchen to launch. You’ll need a sales system, a kitchen printer, and a delivery platform(s).
1. Sales System or Point of Sales
A Point of Sales (POS) is traditionally for brick and mortar restaurants to input orders from customers, but with the ghost kitchen model, there are no walk-in customers, meaning the need for a traditional restaurant POS is no longer necessary.
Point of Sales & Food Halls
One of the advantages of joining a food hall is that you don’t have to fret about selecting your technology. Food halls take the load off selecting your point of sales and manage that relationship because they’re the ones managing all the orders for their tenants and sending the info to their respective stations.
Food Halls can use platforms like Lunchbox to create a marketplace app that features the tenant's menus all on a single platform. Orders will come into the central POS, and then the order will filter to the correct tenant to be fulfilled and gathered by the food hall to be packaged into a single package for pick-up.
2. Kitchen Printer or Kitchen Display System
Like a traditional restaurant, ghost kitchens also need a system to track the order progress. This can be done by a conventional kitchen printer or Kitchen Display System (KDS):
Traditional Printer - most commonly seen in a restaurant, these printers physically print out the orders on a piece of paper. Staff members can move the order ticket when needed allowing them to keep track of its status and follow their flow of operations.
Kitchen Display System (KDS) - this is the digital option for a traditional printer. A KDS is more automated in that orders are immediately added to a device (such as a tablet) after input, allowing kitchen staff to start the order. Fresh KDS helps restaurants stay digital and innovative by offering an entirely wireless solution that integrates with POS platforms and Cuboh.
Both options work very well, and what you choose should be based on your needs, operations, and flow of handling orders.
To reach your consumer, you will need the technology to deliver your food. Most ghost kitchens partner with delivery apps such as DoorDash or UberEats to manage and take care of all the deliveries; the alternative is creating a delivery service and going direct to the consumer or joining a food hall.
Traditional, Third-Party Delivery Services
Third-Party Delivery services include platforms such as DoorDash, Uber Eats, GrubHub, and more. They take care of managing the entire ordering and delivery process for you by engaging with customers, taking their orders, and having their drivers come to pick up and deliver the customer’s order.
Third-party delivery services are great for taking a load off your operations and managing the interaction with the consumer. They also do a lot of promotion and marketing to help encourage consumers to order online.
Before joining a delivery platform, consider:
a. Costs—each delivery platform takes a commission. You should know the potential costs for using a delivery platform and onboarding more than one, as each can vary.
b. Geographical location—how often are drivers delivering to consumers in your area? What is the delivery zone radius for drivers on those apps? If drivers have to drive long distances for pick-up and then delivery, it could result in longer wait times for your customers.
c. Consumer data—most third-party delivery partners will not share the data they’ve collected on your customers. If you like to evaluate your data and performance, some white-label apps will provide this information, or you will need to place marketing efforts elsewhere to get this information.
Use Multiple Food Delivery Apps
While signing up for multiple delivery apps may seem like a no-brainer, there are some important considerations to keep in mind:
Location and availability—not all delivery platforms are active in your area. Although they could be available for you to list on, their pick-up time could be significantly longer than other apps. It’s important to check if they are available in your area, their delivery app radius, and how often their drivers are in your area.
Don’t limit yourself to just one—although there are commission fees associated with each platform, you could be limiting your reach by being on just one. If a new app has launched in your area, consider being one of the first businesses on that app. This will give you time to increase your reputation and have an advantage over your competitors.
When you’ve decided which delivery platforms best meet your needs, add them to your dark kitchen with Cuboh's integrations. Each delivery platform requires you to utilize their technology and adapt to their platform’s interface, resulting in human errors and missed orders. By consolidating with Cuboh, you’ll be able to manage all your online orders on one device, focus on your operations, and grow your business.
4. Direct-to-consumer Platforms
These platforms allow you more control of your online ordering experience. From building an online ordering platform to processing payments or building a website, these platforms exist to give you more power in running your business. Some examples of these platforms are:
- ChowNow—offers three unique products to help you grow. From access to their network to reach new customers, building online ordering right into your website, and more. You can get a robust online ordering system.
- Lunchbox—is a well-rounded marketing solution. They assist with building online ordering into your website, app creation, and expanding your reach. Lunchbox also helps with other marketing initiatives such as emails, notifications, loyalty programs, and more.
- Smooth Commerce—a digital marketing solution for restaurants. Businesses can build their brand and customer engagement with their white-label online ordering, marketing tools, and reporting solutions.
- Sociavore—another great solution for restaurants looking for help with marketing. Build a website, online ordering, and grow your online presence with their tools.
- DoorDash Drive—a Last Mile Logistics system. DoorDash Drive provides a delivery fleet for businesses that sell anything from their website. Similar to going direct to a consumer, DoorDash will manage the logistics of delivering your food for you; in exchange, they will take a flat fee per order.
Each platform has similar features and solutions for your restaurant, so when evaluating, think of your ghost kitchen’s needs and your budget.
5. Online Order Aggregator
Managing multiple delivery tablets can be time-consuming and lead to confusion, potential errors, missed orders, and lost revenue. On average, restaurants have a 5% turnover loss due to human error. For example, if you have an average order value of $20 with 100 orders per day, you’re looking at $1000+ in turnover per week.
"On average, restaurants have a 5% turnover loss due to human error. For example, if you have an average order value of $20 with 100 orders per day, you’re looking at $1000+ in turnover per week."
The solution for this is to use an online order aggregator.
6. Inventory Management
If organization isn’t your strong suit, onboarding software can increase your operations and positively impact your business— not only for you but also for your staff.
7. Food Lockers
A food locker in the food and beverage industry is a cubicle that can hold food inside for a customer to pick up. While not new to the food industry, it’s a rising food trend that’s popular with franchises and online ordering.
With innovation, food lockers are no longer basic storage containers for food but have temperature control, branding features, QR code scanning, and more. Brands such as GRUBBRR, Panasonic, and Truffle provide new solutions for cloud kitchens and their consumers to interact.
What Makes a Ghost Kitchen Successful?
Your ghost kitchen’s success will depend on the quality of your food and the concept behind the menu. But there are other success metrics to consider that can contribute to your concept, engage with your consumer, and result in growth and success. We highlight 4 of them below.
1. Added Value
The right platforms and tools to help you run operations can positively impact your operational costs.
Without a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant front, GK entrepreneurs need to add value in different and unique ways, such as:
- Online Menu
- Social Media
- Delivery Times
- Loyalty Programs
2. Own Your Ghost Kitchen’s Social Media Presence
Customers have to be able to find you. With everyone online these days, social media is a good place to start.
Without a social media coordinator, it’s difficult to manage more than one platform. If resources are limited, pick the most suitable platforms for your business and concentrate your efforts on those.
Ask yourself, where are my customers online? If your food resonates with Gen Y & Z, think TikTok or Instagram. Or, if your customer base is more Gen Y & X, use Instagram and Twitter. You need to understand where your customers are so you can make a connection with them. Each platform caters to a different demographic.
When you select a platform, you must be active and have a consistent presence. Otherwise, your customers may wonder if you’re still open for business.
3. Take Advantage of Digital Customer Retention
Once you’ve convinced a customer to buy a dish once, you want them to come back again and again. It’s much cheaper to retain a customer that has already shown interest than to go after a new one; that’s where customer retention comes in.
In the digital world, you need digital solutions. You can offer several online incentives to encourage repeat purchases; think loyalty rewards, discounts, special offers, or referrals—companies like WeGift, OpenLoyalty, and Talon.One have a variety of product offerings to help with customer retention.
4. Get Online Reviews
Encourage your customers to leave reviews on Google, Facebook, Instagram, Tripadvisor, and Yelp. These sites are important as they often show up at the top of search results.
Tip: make sure you’re responding to reviews. Your consumers like to see brands that engage with their customers.
Offering discounts on a customer’s next meal is an excellent way to incentivize customers to leave reviews.
5. Consider Online Advertising
Online advertising is a great way to build traffic to your website. When your website traffic grows, it helps search engines like Google recognize your brand. Paid platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Google are great solutions to reaching your customers and growing your brand awareness.
You can monitor the effectiveness of each campaign and adjust your ad spend based on performance. However, you must have a baseline understanding of running and managing your ads. Before launching your first campaign, take some courses, so you know how to use each platform, such as Google’s Skillshop or Facebook’s Blueprint.
From an operations perspective, paid advertising can affect your bottom line as it is a cost.
It’s necessary to evaluate your overall budget and see what you can allocate to paid advertising. If you don’t have money to set aside for paid advertising, we advise you hold off on launching paid ads. Paid advertising can be expensive if you don’t know how to optimize or manage your campaigns. It could mean spending money and achieving little to no results. Remember, take a paid advertising course before launching your first ad to best use your advertising budget.
6. Lay the Foundations With an Attractive Website
Your website is your dark kitchen’s home online. It gives your potential customers an overall picture of your brand and acts as a hub where they can view your menus, even place an order, and find your social media accounts.
Investing in a good website is crucial to your online success. Visuals, page loading time, quality content, and mobile device friendliness are essential to monitor. We recommend hiring a professional to set up and maintain your website.
A website is also a great opportunity to gather customer emails. Once you’ve obtained your customer’s email addresses, you can email them on a weekly or monthly basis to keep them updated about new offers, specials, articles, press, and more. An email becomes another gateway to communicating and interacting with your customers. It can help remind them to order again and reinforce your brand.
Tikka Cravings, a virtual brand of Maya Eats, has a clean and straightforward website. With friendly navigation, users can easily find what they want to know. They use high-quality visuals that highlight their offerings, and their copy is brief and straight to the point. With their listed locations and delivery platforms, users can easily order, creating a positive user experience, plus they’re mobile optimized.
In comparison, Krispy Rice has a bright and colorful site that immediately tells the consumer who they are and their offering. Consumers get a small taste of their experience due to the site’s imagery highlighting their food presentation and packaging. In addition, if you scroll down, you can see Krispy Rice has a call to action asking users if they’d like to subscribe to their mailing list.
P. S. Many of Cuboh’s partners can help ghost kitchens with creating a website.
7. Analyze your Online Traffic
When your ghost kitchen launches, the next step is to get to know your customers. Understanding who your consumers are, where they are, their preferences, age, interests, etc., gives you a better chance of engaging with them, catering your menu to their needs, and maintaining customer retention.
Some white-label restaurant apps can provide you with more information on your customers than third-party delivery platforms. Again, consider a white-label app that offers more than one service, so you’re receiving a well-rounded product to meet your many needs.
When launching a campaign, remember to have a goal in mind. Are you looking to acquire new social media followers, traffic to your website, or increase online orders? This way, you can see how much it cost you to achieve that goal and optimize towards bringing that cost down.
8. Consider an Underserved Menu Concept or Brand
You want your concept to be unique. You will have an advantage over other concepts if you’re serving a potentially high-demand location. Remember, your concept is your brand as a dark kitchen; what you offer will determine your success.
To do this, analyze the competitors in your surrounding area and delivery platforms. How many cuisine types or concepts do you see that are similar? Think, if there are five taco concepts, seven pizza places, and four sushi restaurants, what unique menu concept can you add? Perhaps an Italian concept could fill a need.
At Cuboh, our goal is to help businesses grow. We work closely with thousands of brands to provide solutions that meet their business needs. With a growing list of partners and integrations, we can help you find what you’re looking for. Whether you’re building a concept, have questions about ghost kitchen operations, or looking for results, we have the answers.