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With so much of modern life focused around convenience, delivery food is more popular than ever. But did you know that there are restaurants that focus solely on delivery food? 

A delivery-only restaurant or “ghost kitchen” is essentially a virtual restaurant with a distinct concept. They take online orders and prepare food that is exclusively available on online-ordering platforms. With this guide, we will equip you with everything you need to know about opening up your very own virtual restaurant!  

Why Start A Virtual Kitchen?

There are so many advantages to this business model that it’s no wonder many people opt for a virtual kitchen instead of a traditional restaurant. With the growing popularity of delivery, the sales from virtual venues are expected to increase 42% this year and are projected to increase another 25% in the next five years. 

To start a ghost kitchen, you must secure a commercial kitchen space and obtain all the same permits as a typical restaurant. However, with a ghost kitchen, you only need a kitchen. Because of this, you can rent a smaller space, or shared kitchen, that just has a kitchen instead of a traditional, full-on restaurant. This can save you a lot of money if you are just starting out. 

If you already own an established restaurant, but your cooking staff has downtime, you can also open up a virtual restaurant out of your existing kitchen. This will keep your staff cooking on slow days and generate extra profit. You can even design your virtual restaurant’s menu out of ingredients you already have for your primary restaurant. This is a great way to keep your food waste down when business is slow. 

There are many new resources for starting a ghost kitchen. You can even become a fulfillment partner for a company like Nextbite. Nextbite, a virtual kitchen space, creates delivery-only restaurant concepts with high-quality, chef-inspired menus available through delivery apps. 

Nextbite provides full virtual restaurant concepts, including menus, branding based on data analytics and current trends, recipes that consumers are craving, and the technology to operate your ghost kitchen with ease. This is a great, fast and easy way to start up a virtual kitchen. Just cook the meals to fulfill the orders and let the profits come pouring in.

Do You Have A Commercial Kitchen Space?

Do you already have a kitchen space? If so, you can skip on to the next section. If not, stay tuned. Getting prepared to start a virtual restaurant is easier than starting a full-blown restaurant. However, there are still some things you will need to do to get your ghost kitchen going. You may want to first read up on how to start a restaurant, as a lot of the requirements are the same. If you are starting a virtual kitchen without an existing restaurant, you will need to:

  1. Rent A Commercial Kitchen Space: Remember, you don’t need a ton of space. If you can, rent a space that only has a kitchen—after all, that is all you need when you aren’t entertaining customers in person. 
  2. Obtain All Necessary Permits: If you are serving food out of a virtual kitchen, you still must get all necessary permits to operate legally. 
  3. Equipment: Make a list of all the equipment you will need to execute your menu. You will need to rent or buy proper equipment if you do not already have it. 
  4. Staff: You will need to hire some employees or work with a business partner to fulfill your orders once they start pouring in. Luckily, staff should be minimal since you are not running a full-service restaurant. 

You Have A Kitchen, Now What?

Now you have a commercial kitchen, a cooking team, equipment, and staff. Next, you will need to get to work creating your virtual kitchen. When creating a ghost kitchen, concept is your key to success. You will need to create a solid brand, complete with branding, menu, and marketing materials. 

You must create an exciting concept for your new virtual restaurant to stand out on the delivery apps and attract customers. With virtual restaurants, all the customers are acquired through digital marketing. You won’t have any foot traffic or people wandering into the restaurant like little cartoons, floating on the enticing scent of your food. Your ability to attract customers depends heavily on how well you can market yourself online.

Develop A Concept

One of the most important ways to stand out online is to create a strong concept. It’s also a fun place to start when dreaming up your new ghost kitchen. Many virtual restaurants stick to one distinct concept, such as serving all different types of mac and cheese like Monster Mac or serving variations of grilled cheeses like The Grilled Cheese Society.

Think about what you want your restaurant’s “thing” to be. When conceptualizing your virtual restaurant, consider the type of food, hours of operation, menu design, logo, and even your color palate. You should also consider who your target customers are. 

Identify Your Target Customers

Know who your target customers are and reel them in. If you want to cook healthy foods, then your target customers are health-conscious people. You will probably want to serve fresh foods and operate during morning/daytime hours to cater to your target customers. 

Similarly, if you’re near a college, you may want to cater to the late-night party-goers by serving tater tots and milkshakes into the wee hours of the morning. Know who you’re cooking for! 

Design Your Menu

As a virtual restaurant, your menu is all the customer sees before ordering. Your menu needs to draw them in with visual appeal. The next thing your customer will see is the menu items and their respective descriptions. 

It is also important that you have a cohesive menu that makes sense for your brand. Make sure to play to your audience in descriptions when you can—make the food sound so good, they can’t help but order. Also, give your menu items names that pop and fit your brand. 

Create A Digital Marketing Strategy 

Marketing a virtual restaurant requires an entirely digital approach. Having a website will legitimize your virtual restaurant. If a customer finds you on a delivery app, then decides to look your restaurant up on google, it’s ideal that you have a website for them to land on. Your website could be as simple as your logo at the top, photos of the food, a couple of reviews, and the menu. 

For an example of a well-designed website, check out Firebelly Wings. You can also use your website to market yourself by providing links to your ghost restaurant’s social media profile. 

Create a social media profile for your brand to boost your visibility. As an online business, you need to be visible online to attract customers. If you create an Instagram, you can post pictures of your food, see when people post about you, and repost their happy reviews on your story– voila, free marketing. 

Set Up Your Tech

You will need wifi as well as a tablet or laptop to receive and track orders. Set up a station in your ghost kitchen to serve as your order hub. Once you have set up your tech, you will have to decide how you are going to receive orders. 

The easiest way to get yourself out there and grow a customer base is by using a third-party delivery app. There are several to choose from, so investigate your options thoroughly, as the fee for using these apps varies. 

 Invest In Smart Packaging

As a delivery-only restaurant, it is incredibly important that you properly package food for delivery. You’ve worked hard to make your delicious food! Make sure it arrives to your customer in tip-top shape. After all, no customer wants to receive food that is cold, soggy, or worse–all over the inside of the bag. Look for packaging with these characteristics:

  • Durability: Use sturdy packaging that won’t break or spill during the delivery process. 
  • Properly Sized: Using a container that is the ideal size for what you are transporting will ensure your food does not shift around or bust out the sides, creating a mess. 
  • User Friendly: Ensure packaging is easy to use with no sharp edges. For bonus points, use a container that is microwave safe for reheating leftovers. 
  • Branding: Make sure your packaging reflects your brand. 

When packaging food always:

  • Separate hot and cold items. 
  • Keep food hot until it is picked up. 
  • Separate sides and sauces. 
  • Wrap sauce containers in foil to prevent spillage.
  • Reinforce all lids with a strip of tape.  
  • Keep food and beverage separate. 

Your Ready To Open Your Virtual Kitchen

You are now equipped with the in-depth knowledge of how to open a virtual restaurant. With these skills, you will be operating a successful ghost kitchen in no time. Just remember to wear your brand on your sleeve and keep serving up delicious food.

Sources:

https://www.webstaurantstore.com/article/107/restaurant-permits-and-licenses.html

https://www.webstaurantstore.com/article/40/how-to-start-a-restaurant.html

https://restaurant.org/articles/news/find-the-ghost-kitchen-model-thats-right-for-you

https://www.webstaurantstore.com/article/301/restaurant-menu-design.html

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