No matter where you are, it's never a challenge to pull out your phone and find a handful of restaurants nearby to order from. Expand that search out a few more miles and now you have enough options to order from somewhere different every day of the month!
One reason there are so many different options is the same reason so many hopeful chefs look to open a kitchen, each one is a chance to capture unique tastes and celebrate the culture behind the cuisine. Even two identical looking cafes can offer completely different menus or if they have the same menu, they can still create dishes using alternate techniques or with different ingredients.
With so many different variations of the same type of food, eateries had to start distinguishing themselves from one another to attract customers. While this practice is nothing new, some of the more high-brow kitchen formats are breaking away from tradition to embrace new restaurant innovations, namely the virtual kitchen trend.
What's a Virtual Kitchen?
When you hear the term virtual kitchen or ghost kitchen, it means a restaurant that operates solely as a food provider for pickup and delivery orders. There are no wait staff, no dining room and no reservations to be made ahead of time. You'll often see virtual kitchens referred to as:
- Ghost kitchens
- Dark kitchens
- Virtual brands
- Satellite kitchens
- Virtual pop-ups
- Partner kitchens
A ghost kitchen can operate independently through a rented space within commercial or commissary kitchens, allowing them full creative control over the menu and preparation of each item. Some restaurants actually work together to share their kitchen space, turning a breakfast diner from eggs in the morning to fancy baked goods at lunch and ending with skillfully crafted cocktails all at the same location but with each "shift" being a different crew in the kitchen.
Another draw of having a ghost kitchen as your area of operations is that the maintenance and upkeep of the building falls on the property manager, all you would need to do as a kitchen tenant is clean up after yourself and make the space you have work as best as it can.
Co-existing and working in a single large kitchen with other crews can seem like a nightmare, but any busy kitchen understands that communication happens naturally as time goes by. Chefs will only bump into one another so many times before shouts of "BEHIND!" and "COMING THROUGH!" become common occurrences.
Ghost Kitchens Are Resurrecting Interest in Patisseries
Having access to shared cooking spaces means much lower costs upfront allowing for more and more aspiring cooks and bakers to share their craft with the world. Bakers in particular are having immense success with choosing a ghost kitchen startup as their next venture.
Large companies are able to open franchises wherever the market seems fitting while smaller bakeries or solo food entrepreneurs have to have the stars align in order to break into the industry and expand their footprint. That's finally changing for the better with new restaurant tech handling the logistic side of running a bakery and owners simply needing to check in on everything through their restaurant SaaS.
Bakeries also have an advantage over other ghost and virtual kitchens, less competition. Don't let that create ideas that bakeries are without struggle, every food establishment has competition and hurdles to overcome. Bakeries just exist in fewer numbers than restaurants that provide traditional meal services.
Being the only bakery in a ghost kitchen can open the doors to collaboration with other restaurants that share the space, letting customers of a full-service kitchen enjoy gourmet dessert from a patisserie while both benefit from the partnership. All of this happening without interrupting the flow of creation for head chefs and creative bakers.
No Longer Needing a Storefront Opens Other Doors
Patisseries are continuing to fall head over heels for these ghost kitchens. With most kitchen spaces being rentable on an "as-needed" basis, the cost comes down to just how much baking needs to happen. No need to pay for a full day of rent when baking started at 4 a.m. and the last item sold at 11 a.m.
Smaller kitchens also mean that menus have to be perfect, accounting for things like storage capacity and ingredient sourcing. While this is a challenge to some, others embrace the idea of being able to update their menus frequently and utilize more seasonal fruits and flavors in their creations.
Enjoying a French patisserie made by an expert baker no longer requires a trip into the city or long lines waiting for the doors to open each day. Now these bite-sized snapshots of flavor can be paired with your favorite dinner order, all delivered at once from the same kitchen. There's never been a better time to explore new pairings of sweet and savory than this era of ghost kitchens and restaurant innovation.