What’s the deal with ghost kitchens?

Restaurants are using ghost kitchens to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, changing consumer behaviors, and the increasing prevalence of digital technology.

As traditional restaurants struggle, ghost kitchens offer a glimmer of hope—and a glimpse of the future

While many sectors of the food industry have struggled over the last year, one area has seen steady growth: ghost kitchens. It’s a relatively new and specific area of the restaurant industry that not only survived but thrived during the pandemic.

Euromonitor, a market research team, predicted that ghost kitchens could develop into a $1 trillion business by 2030. Unlike a traditional eatery, ghost kitchens are easier to set up, cheaper to operate, and require less risk and investment.

What is a ghost kitchen?

Ghost kitchens make food to fulfill online orders only. Unlike traditional restaurants, they do not include any space for guests to dine on location. These kitchens often begin with a virtual brand created on a delivery-only concept sold exclusively online through food delivery apps. This model differs from a food truck, which might move but still have a dedicated kitchen.

A ghost kitchen cook at work.

The benefits of operating a ghost kitchen

When it comes to owning a ghost kitchen, operators and brands benefit most from cost savings.  Typically, ghost kitchens operate at a fraction of the cost of a typical restaurant kitchen. By not seating customers on location, ghost kitchens cut back on the amount of space needed to accommodating guests on location, ghost kitchens don’t need staff to work the floor or serve food. This situation, of course, cuts way back on labor costs.

Ghost kitchens fulfill delivery orders in the easiest, cheapest way possible, and they don’t depend on foot traffic or a physical location to do business or serve customers. Because they don’t depend on foot traffic, ghost kitchens can operate in less busy or remote areas where rent is cheaper. This also spares ghost kitchens from the ups and downs that go with fluctuations in foot traffic.

As the pandemic amplifies the demand for online delivery orders, many restaurants and brands have already adopted ghost kitchen models to alleviate their losses from closures and limited capacity. Some ghost kitchens complement traditional in-house dining operations, while others exist and operate solely online.

In other words, ghost kitchens give businesses room to play. They expand the options businesses have to meet customers where they’re at. And in this climate, customers are on delivery apps.

Ghost kitchens also allow brands and restaurants to narrow their menus. Ghost kitchens will often create separate brands for a single menu item or category (chicken wings, burgers, pizza). This strategy limits the need for a massive menu with complicated recipes and lost items. Limited menus allows for easier execution and fewer costs spent on purchasing ingredients.

Is a ghost kitchen right for you?

Of course, you have a lot to consider before opening a ghost kitchen. But you might find you’re in a good spot to consider the option if:

  • You’re just starting as a chef or entrepreneur
  • You own a small brick-and-mortar restaurant with limited resources
  • You own a food truck
  • You have a large restaurant, chain, or are a well-funded chef
  • You are looking for a temporary solution to pandemic restrictions

As with any restaurant, your ghost kitchen will need the proper tools to deliver safe meals that your customers can feel good about eating. Tamper-evident labels add a second layer of security to delivery and takeout orders. And in some cities and states (California), the law even requires these security labels with each delivery order.

The State of California now requires restaurants to secure each delivery order with tamper-evident labels as long as they’re delivered by third parties. NCCO manufactures a wide selection of these labels to meet a variety of needs.
Want to learn more about ghost kitchens?

Do you have more questions about what it takes to operate a successful ghost kitchen? We have you covered. Check out “Need to Know Ghost Kitchen Essentials: Equipping Your Cloud Kitchen for Success” for more information.