During the COVID-19 pandemic, food delivery provided a way for restaurants and customers to connect without violating social distancing guidelines. The popularity of food delivery also contributed to the rise of the virtual kitchen trend.
Virtual kitchens, or ghost kitchens, are food preparation facilities that rely on online orders as opposed to dine-in customers. When opening a ghost kitchen, most owners have two choices — they can manage their own brand, or they can join a shared kitchen owned by an umbrella company. To help determine which is the right choice for you, let's take a closer look at how both options work.
Solo Ghost Kitchens
Solo virtual kitchen owners create meals, work with delivery drivers and manage their brand from their own kitchen space. Here are some of the pros and cons of solo virtual kitchens.
Pro: Autonomy Over Kitchen Space
Sharing a kitchen space requires collaborating with other brands to find a schedule that works for everyone. Some brands may also share certain appliances (such as refrigerators and dishwashers). If you have your own kitchen, however, you don't have to worry about adapting to someone else's needs — you can work according to your desired hours and use supplies whenever you'd like.
Pro: Complete Control Over Menu Items
Solo ghost kitchen owners have complete control over their brand, from food offerings to menu updates. Say you notice that sandwiches are popular in your area — if you run your own kitchen, you can simply add sandwiches to your menu. However, if you share a kitchen with a sandwich brand, then this menu change might cause conflict between your brands.
While running a virtual kitchen is less expensive than running a brick-and-mortar restaurant, there are still several expenses to consider. These include:
- Labor costs
Before you can open your kitchen, you'll need to rent a space, purchase any necessary supplies and hire a team to manage the location. If you don't have the budget to complete these tasks, then you might be better off with a shared kitchen.
Con: High Marketing Demands
For a ghost kitchen to be successful, it needs a solid online presence. After all, people can't order from a virtual kitchen if they don't know it exists. Ideally, the kitchen can be found through the following sources:
- Social media
- Third-party delivery apps
If you operate a solo ghost kitchen, you're fully responsible for meeting these marketing demands. This requires time, effort and expertise that not everybody has at their disposal.
Sharing a Kitchen: Ghost Kitchen Concept
In a shared ghost kitchen concept, multiple virtual brands work out of a single space. Owners keep their own brands but are managed by an umbrella ghost kitchen company. Here are the pros and cons of this set-up.
Pros: Lower Costs
One of the biggest advantages of shared kitchens is that they're less expensive than solo kitchens. This is largely because you share the cost of amenities with other brands. These amenities may include the following:
For many new owners, the low overhead and rent costs are a large incentive for joining a shared space as opposed to opening an individual one.
Pros: Access to Resources
Shared kitchen spaces are managed by an umbrella company that has a vested interest in the participating virtual brands. If your space does well, then the management profits as a result. Thus, you can expect to receive support from the umbrella company if needed. Many companies will supply the following:
- Equipment maintenance
- Security systems
- Cleaning supplies
Some umbrella companies may even help with marketing. If the company already has a solid online presence, this can go a long way in attracting new customers.
Con: Adapting to Other Brands
If you have a shared kitchen space, you'll have to adapt to the needs of other virtual brands (as well as the expectations of the management). For example, while you can decide the hours of your brand, you may not have control over when the building itself is open. Moreover, you might have to take turns using certain equipment, which can delay orders.
Con: Managing Orders
Since there are no walk-in customers, virtual brands depend heavily on food delivery services. When you share a kitchen space, it can be difficult to separate your orders from your neighbor's orders. The last thing you want to do is give food to the wrong driver and end up ruining a customer relationship. Fortunately, this problem can be solved by investing in high-quality restaurant tech, such as Cuboh.
As an order management platform, Cuboh is designed to help kitchens meet delivery demands by streamlining orders and integrating with restaurant SaaS systems. Whether you run a solo or shared ghost kitchen, you can enjoy the benefits of a quick, efficient ordering system.