The dark kitchen trend started in 2020 when restaurants needed a way to continue making profits during the pandemic. Restaurants across the United States are starting to reopen, but ghost kitchens are as popular as ever. In fact, experts predict that ghost kitchens could become a trillion-dollar industry by 2030. As more customers have turned to online services and delivery apps, virtual kitchens have become the future of the restaurant industry.
How Lucrative is the Ghost Kitchen Industry?
Ghost kitchens partner with delivery apps like UberEats that deliver their food to customers. Currently, UberEats makes over one billion a year, showing that customers have a massive demand for food delivery. Major investors have funneled money into delivery apps to make the market even more lucrative. Not every delivery app or program is successful, but major players like UberEats and GrubHub rack up thousands of orders each day.
in 2019, the virtual kitchen industry was valued at $40 billion even before the pandemic. The United States has thousands of ghost kitchens, but virtual kitchens are most popular in China. The COVID-19 pandemic made ghost kitchens an essential part of running a restaurant, causing an uptick in visibility. Some restaurants integrated virtual kitchens into their dine-in locations, while others switched to a completely virtual format. Other business owners launched their first ghost kitchens during the pandemic.
With the rise of streaming services, online shopping and other digital services, ghost kitchens have become another part of the virtual market. In fact, delivery orders doubled between 2014 and 2019. This number increased during the pandemic--and even while restaurants slowly reopen, customers have realized that ordering delivery is easy and convenient. This makes customers likely to continue ordering food online after the pandemic is over.
What Are Some Recent Advancements in Restaurant Tech?
Ghost kitchens started with business owners launching restaurants out of their homes, kitchens or workspaces. As virtual kitchens have increased in popularity, more businesses have appeared to refine the process. For example, Kitchen United allows customers to order food from multiple restaurants at once. This allows them to order everyone's favorite dishes without dealing with multiple orders and bills. Customers can pick up their food at the kitchen center or ask Kitchen United to deliver it to their door.
Some restaurants have tried offering a more personalized experience to their customers. Currently, the restaurants barely interact with their customers--if at all. Experts suggest offering Zoom chats and videos so customers can get to know the people behind the ghost kitchen. Live chats also give them the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the restaurant. When they feel like they have a personal relationship with the restaurant, they're more likely to order their food.
For an interactive experience, virtual kitchens could include a QR code on the bag. When customers scan the code, they could find a video, website, article or social media account with more information about the restaurant. Some kitchens create Spotify playlists for their dishes. These extra touches make customers feel like they're paying for a full experience, not just the food.
Finally, some ghost kitchens offer a survey for their customers. This isn't a new concept, but it encourages customers to get in touch with the kitchen and share their feedback. This makes customers feel like the restaurant listens to them and strives to meet their needs. Plus, getting feedback helps the restaurant improve their service.
Why Are Ghost Kitchens So Profitable?
Mainly, ghost kitchens are profitable because they're quick and convenient. Instead of driving to the restaurant, customers order online and let the restaurant come to them. They can order an entire meal and pay the check without leaving the house. Customers can also scroll through the menu on the delivery app so they know what the restaurant offers. If they don't like what they see, they can switch to another restaurant in seconds--no need to call ahead or search for websites online.
For restaurant owners, virtual kitchens allow the owners to add new dishes to the menu. Instead of adding new cuisines to their menu and confusing their visitors, restaurants can open virtual kitchens that are completely separate from their existing locations. For example, an Asian restaurant could open a ghost kitchen that sells Mexican food online. The restaurants have different names and logos, but the cooks prepare the food in the same kitchens. This allows restaurant owners to expand their reach and find new customers that they wouldn't have otherwise.
How Do You Efficiently Run a Ghost Kitchen?
A profitable ghost kitchen gets dozens or even hundreds of orders. This means that you're running a successful business, but it also makes it difficult to keep track. Cuboh is a fully integrated restaurant SaaS application that features your orders and point of payment systems in one convenient dashboard. Contact us today to schedule a free demo and informational call.