What a difference a year can make.
Back in the pre-pandemic days, the idea of setting up a dedicated ghost kitchen might have seemed like a pipe dream for most chefs and entrepreneurs, but that's no longer the case. Consumer demand for virtual dining has skyrocketed, leading to a surge in virtual eateries working out of ghost kitchens. Even established restaurants have pivoted to focus on online ordering as their main source of revenue, and the multiple kitchen concept is taking hold nationwide.
Here's just some of the reasons why online ordering is here to stay:
While it might seem like the uptick in delivery and take-out food orders is linked to the lockdowns, that's not entirely accurate.
Delivery sales were already on the rise before any COVID-19 restrictions were implemented, thanks in part to the evolution of multiple delivery apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub. Those sales surged during the first quarter of 2020, and deliver apps quickly became a staple for diners looking for a safe way to enjoy their favorite restaurant meals.
Customers have become accustomed to having easy access to a huge range of ordering options from restaurants that previously didn't offer takeout or delivery, and that's shifted online ordering from being a small source of revenue into a viable full-time business model for ghost kitchens and virtual eateries.
In the past, diners had a relatively limited number of options when it came to ordering home-delivered hot meals.
In fact, there were two basic choices for take-out in most markets — pizza, or Chinese food. If you wanted anything else, you had to either eat in at an establishment, or pick up your take-out order in person. All that's changed since online ordering apps made in easy for restaurants to offer delivery service, and now that diners have embraced delivery, eating restaurant meals at home has become routine in many American households.
Millions of Americans began working from home during the pandemic, and that caused a dramatic drop in revenue for restaurants that relied on the lunchtime and after-work crowd.
While it's expected that some of those workers will eventually return to their worksites, a significant proportion won't. They'll continue to work remotely, which means all the business restaurants previously generated from weekday lunch rushes will be up for grabs.
Online ordering was already a popular perk for many professionals in the tech field, where their employers provided lunch on-site as a way to keep employees as productive and engaged as possible. Those same employees are now working remotely, and they still want the convenience that comes with having their meals delivered right to the door.
Most people have missed the experience of in-person dining, but in many areas of the country, restaurants have either been shut down or restricted for so long now that diners' habits have permanently changed.
In lieu of in-person dining, many people have embraced the ease of enjoying their favorite restaurant meals in the comfort, and safety, of their own homes. A significant portion of the population will likely continue to avoid close contact situations for years to come, and that means plenty of prospective customers for virtual eateries.
Another huge trend that comes with the surge in online ordering is restaurant meal kits. These kits can easily be prepped at a ghost kitchen, ordered online and distributed through multiple delivery apps, allowing restaurateurs the chance to introduce new items without incurring high overhead costs.
Meal kits are also a great way for startups to get into the business, because these kits can easily be built in a ghost kitchen. When combined with a strong digital platform that integrates menu and inventory management, the multiple kitchen concept can quickly be scaled to respond to consumer demand in a way that doesn't require a huge investment or massive start-up costs.
Retail grocery prices have risen dramatically during the pandemic, and those prices are expected to remain high in the foreseeable future.
The spike in grocery costs has caused many consumers to rethink their meal planning, since suddenly the price difference between home-cooked meals and meals made in a ghost kitchen isn't that significant. In fact, some consumers have found that the higher cost of home-delivered meals is worth it, given the amount of time and energy they save by not traveling to the grocery store.
Another consumer perk of online ordering is reduced food waste. When customers order their meals from a ghost kitchen, they don't have nearly the amount of food waste as what they generate by cooking at home, and that's added to the value proposition provided by delivered meals.
With the dramatic shifts triggered by COVID-19, there's tremendous growth opportunities for anyone who wants to open up a ghost kitchen. This is a great time to pursue a multiple kitchen concept, whether as an extension of an existing restaurant, to launch a new brand, or even as a pop-up virtual eatery.
In order to make the most of your ghost kitchen concept, be sure to contact us to learn about the innovative tech solutions available through Cuboh. We work with industry experts to design and deliver cost-effective ways to grow your ghost kitchen anywhere in the United States.