Also known as cloud kitchens or virtual kitchens, ghost kitchens have already started to redefine the dining industry across the world. By taking advantage of recent advances in digital restaurant tech, this new breed of restaurant has a number of surprising advantages over traditional brick and mortar establishments and has already started leaving its mark. But to really understand what the rise of these new dining spots can tell us about the future of the restaurant industry, we have to understand what they are and how they work.
What are Ghost Kitchens?
In the simplest terms, ghost kitchens are restaurants that are delivery-only, accessible via any one of the popular delivery apps which have changed the way diners eat out in the last decade. While most ghost kitchens don't seek in-person dining, they carve out a unique niche by building their menus around dishes that are specially made for delivery.
While its true ghost kitchens have been around in one form or another for decades, it is only recently that they have become known to the average diner. The reason for this has much to do with the way ghost kitchens work, and the specific advantages they offer.
How Does a Ghost Kitchen Work?
When it comes down to the basic structure, ghost kitchens work in much the same way as traditional restaurants, except instead of tables arranged in a dining area, food is delivered miles away. In order to make this possible, ghost kitchens rely on a number of small upgrades to the brick and mortar kitchen.
Optimized for Delivery
The key to a successful ghost kitchen is crafting a menu that can be produced quickly and delivered without loss of quality. That means times like fresh salad, french fries, and ice cream are usually not offered. Luckily, there is a wide variety of options that fit the bill, from poke to noodle dishes.
Fast delivery also means simplifying the process for drivers. Ghost kitchens often offer driver parking or check-in stations which are designed for rapid pick-up.
The underlying advantage that makes ghost kitchen possible is the variety of restaurant SaaS mobile apps which make it easier than ever for diners to connect to their favorite restaurants remotely. Ghost kitchens take full advantage of these and even use advanced analytics tools and app aggregators to process their diner's needs efficiently.
Differing Business Models
The truth is that ghost kitchens come in all shapes and sizes, from aggregate warehouses that several restaurants work out of, to ghost kitchens that operate out of existing restaurants under a different name. In fact, even food trucks can be considered a type of ghost kitchen.
Why Ghost Dining Taking Over the Global Foodie Scene
While the impact of ghost kitchens on the US dining scene is well known, industry experts have also noticed a global explosion in the past year. Counties like Hong Kong, Indonesia, and India have each responded to this ghost kitchen trend in their own way, with innovations that bring food to home diners quickly and affordably. To understand why, take a look at some of the unique advantages ghost kitchens offer.
Since ghost kitchens don't have to invest in dining space, serving staff, and other costs that fall to the owners of brick and mortar spaces, the barrier for entry is much lower. This is the reason why many ghost kitchens seem to appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly.
Not having a physical location means it's easier to change operating times based on customer demand. Similarly, not having physical menus means you can change your offerings at the drop of a hat. This adds up to ghost kitchens being able to respond and adapt more quickly, to better serve the needs of their customers.
Since they use custom-built spaces and menus optimized for delivery, ghost kitchens are often much more efficient. Any money they save can be in turn passed on to the customer.
Challenges of Running a Ghost Kitchen
While ghost kitchens certainly have their own advantages that give them an edge, they also have a number of unique challenges.
- They rely on an on-demand staff
- They need third-party delivery apps to stay connected with customers
- The digital marketplace is only getting more competitive
- Maintaining quality for delivered food isn't always easy
- Local food regulations aren't always clear
The Future of Ghost Kitchens Across the World
While ghost kitchens have recently made their mark on international dining, it's hard to say whether they are destined to be a lasting influence or just a flash in the pan. The most likely outcome is that they will prove to be another step in the evolution of restaurant tech as it continues to serve our needs better and more efficiently.