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Quick Guide: Ghost Kitchens, Virtual Restaurants, and Shared Kitchens

With the continued spike in demand for delivery and takeout, many restaurant owners are moving away from the traditional dine-in restaurant model and toward the concept of a centralized kitchen – an idea that, over the years, has taken on a variety of names, all with very similar meaning: production kitchen, delivery-only kitchen, delivery-only restaurant, cloud kitchen, kitchen incubator, commissary kitchen and community kitchen. Although the naming conventions appear to go on and on, the two most commonly used terms are ghost kitchens and shared kitchens.

Ghost kitchens and cloud kitchens, while still a fairly new concept, continue to gain momentum. They are essentially the “back of house” restaurant and food preparation buildout of ovens, ranges and refrigerators, populated with chefs and line cooks. Virtual brands or remote extensions of known brands, minus the standard brick and mortar storefront. They are stripped-down commercial cooking spaces, without a dine-in option, that cater specifically to online ordering and often partner with app-based, third-party food deliver services.

Similarly, but with some slight differences, shared kitchens are more in line with commercial-grade cooking and storage facilities. These facilities are licensed for food service providers to use for their various food preparations and as storage facilities. When compared to ghost kitchens, these individual spaces – sometimes referred to as pods – are made available for rent by the kitchen’s owner. 

Chef PPE

Virtual restaurants have also caught on with many of the more-established chain or multi-unit restaurants as an expedited alternative to expanding their existing portfolio. It allows for new franchisees to enter the restaurant business without the added risks often associated with investing time and money into the more traditional brick and mortar operation. Franchisee owners are able to maximize their delivery business without needing to maintain and manage a brick and mortar restaurant – whether that’s an existing building or the buildout of a new location – or worry about the associated monthly leasing and overhead costs. Ghost kitchens also allow operators the flexibility to test new markets without exposure to long term leases.

A ghost kitchen’s branding, while still impactful to the overall success of the business, is no longer reliant on a store front or dining space. Not to be overlooked (or overstated) is the value of quality food packaging. Even more so when the primary focus is on convenience and delivery. Any additional expenses normally reserved for the upkeep of a dining space are often applied to a more reliable and durable food packaging solution. While a one-size-fits-all option may be practical, it may also yield less-than-desirable results. Maintaining the integrity of the prepared food is essential. It’s your product. The dedication you put into it shouldn’t be devalued when it’s time to present it to your customers. These containers should be durable, prevent leaking, resist breaking and ensure the individual food items are never mixed together.

Emphasis of a ghost kitchen is placed on how the food they prepare is going to be consumed at a later time and not controlled in the same capacity as on-premise. Enjoyment of a quality meal, one that has properly maintained its temperature and integrity, leaves a lasting impression about your virtual restaurant and the service you provide.

Virtual restaurants are providing a unique opportunity that offer new and innovative ways to capitalize on current consumer meal-delivery trends. And as delivery continues to be a rapidly growing channel within the restaurant industry there is the strong possibility that these cloud kitchens of all styles, sizes and shapes will realize further growth, stability and success.

Check out these additional off-premise considerations for restaurants interested in ghost kitchens. Building out a cloud kitchen space and want an experts design knowledge? Maybe you've just rented a space and need foodservice supplies? Get in touch with us today to get everything you need to get started.

Topics: Foodservice Management

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