The current pandemic environment has changed the way both owners and consumers think about restaurants. Stay at home orders and social distancing have shifting the restaurant dynamic from crowded, in-person dining to carryout and appropriately-spaced patio dining. It's also given rise to a number of ghost kitchens that offer delivery-only meals that are ordered online.
What is a ghost kitchen?
As the name implies, a ghost kitchen interacts with its customers exclusively via a website, app or text messaging. The food is prepared in an employees-only location and delivered to the customer. There is very little physical contact. The ghost kitchen trend is hot, hot, hot right now. It's easy to see why. With more than 100,000 US restaurants closing due to the pandemic, restauranteurs who remain are looking for new ways to remain viable and connect with their customers.
How do I start an online restaurant?
It's pretty easy to create a ghost kitchen. The first step is researching the local laws and licensing requirements for this type of restaurant. Next, you'll want to find a restaurant space where you can create your food. At this point, it's time to create your menu, hire a couple of people to help you build your ghost kitchen creations, find a food purveyor and partner with companies like food delivery services. Finally, it's time to market your services to the public via social media, word-of-mouth campaigns and direct mail.
Expenses associated with a ghost kitchen
While it's relatively affordable to build a kitchen online, there are several expenses that you'll need to plan for. These include...
- Rent for your food preparation space. This might include a shared space or even a corner of a full service restaurant's kitchen.
- Employee wages. While this expense will be less than in a traditional restaurant, you'll still have your cooks and delivery people, at a minimum.
- Food. The cost of the ingredients needed to make your meals.
- Delivery service fees (optional). If you are working with services like GrubHub, UberEats and other food delivery services, you'll need to factor in up to 30% of your meal prices for these services.
- Website, app or POS system. One of the most important parts of a ghost kitchen's operation is the order-taking system, whether that is your website, a third party app or text messaging. One great way to streamline the process between ordering and food prep, while minimizing errors, is to contract with a company like CubOH that sends all of your orders directly to your POS system, so that your cooks can get started quickly making the customer's food without waiting for a staff member to input the order.
- Business and food license. Make sure that you have all of the necessary licenses and inspections when you create your cloud kitchen.