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  • Writer's pictureMaya

Ghost Kitchens: On the Rise or Almost Over?

This past year, restaurants have contended with COVID-19 outbreaks, capacity restrictions, financial distress and so much more. Sit-down service quickly gave way to takeout and delivery; restaurants seized any trend that would keep them open. Soon, ghost kitchens began to boom.

ghost kitchen

Photo courtesy of eatOS

Ghost Kitchens

Though they’ve existed for years already, ghost kitchens never thrived to this extent. They’re also known as cloud kitchens:

With a traditional [ghost] kitchen, you rent a space to operate your kitchen out of and only hire the staff necessary to run it. These “virtual restaurants” only offer delivery services with no option to dine-in or pick-up at all. They don’t need front-of-house staff because customers only have the option to order online.

It’s clear why the pandemic has made ghost kitchens so popular. You only need to hire back-of-house staff because there’s no front-of-house for the customers to interact with. Employees are secluded and you can assign them to particular stations to ensure as much social distance as possible. Meanwhile, your restaurant still capitalizes on delivery streams which is the most important driver of revenue right now.

Some ghost kitchens are adapting, though. Most of the time, ghost kitchens don’t offer takeout although some have put in pickup windows for this purpose. Now you might also consider hiring a food runner to bring dishes out to customers when you integrate with curbside pickup services.

Curbside Pickup

Customers and service workers don’t have to meet face-to-face when they come to get their food. Some restaurants cordoned off designated parking for customers to pull up when their order is ready. A courier then brings it over and leaves it beside the car, eliminating face-to-face contact without piling on delivery fees. If you’re a restaurant currently using third-party services for your delivery channels, you know how high their commission fees can climb. Emphasizing more cost-effective revenue streams like curbside pickup just makes sense.

Full-service restaurants use this too. It’s safer compared to going inside and waiting in line, so why not eliminate the dining room floor altogether? Forget the wasted space when you combine curbside pickup services with ghost kitchens.

Ghost Kitchens and Curbside Pickup Together

We’re finally seeing signs that this pandemic is really ending, but these trends won’t die with it. This past year of stagnation has made people eager to get on with their lives as planned. New businesses open every month and more will follow as vaccinations roll out. Focus on your back of house operations and dedicate sales energy to curbside service. These two go hand in hand.

Studies predict that contactless and off-premise ordering will keep trending after the pandemic passes. That means that ghost kitchens will stay a safe bet, too. It’s important, now, to expend energy on profitable revenue channels that guarantee customer satisfaction. Guests are more comfortable using these safe and efficient methods; they see the benefits of self-ordering like greater accuracy and convenience. It makes sense that, after more than a year of getting very comfortable like this, they’d continue ordering online and taking their meals home to enjoy in front of their TV on a cozy couch.

Ghost kitchens adapted to prioritize curbside services are a more affordable venture with some measure of built-in flexibility. With this, you’ll be better prepared for any unexpected circumstances that come up in the future.

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