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Ghost kitchens are dominating the food delivery industry and rapidly growing in popularity. In fact, it is estimated that there are currently about 1500 ghost kitchens in the United States and counting. 

Operating a ghost kitchen is similar to running a restaurant in many ways. The main difference is that a ghost kitchen is marketed exclusively online. However, creating a strong digital marketing strategy can be incredibly helpful when marketing any restaurant, ghost or not. It is essential that you create a marketing strategy that draws in customers with a strong concept, high-quality food pictures, and an attractive website.

Concept Is Key

Concept is vital. Your restaurant’s concept will influence everything from the food you serve to your hours of operation. Your concept is also going to serve as the base of your marketing strategy. 

When it comes to concept, many virtual restaurants stick to one distinct concept, such as serving all different types of patty melts like The Big Melt or serving up wings every which way like Firebelly Wings. Focusing on one type of food creates a distinct brand.

Identify Your Target Customer

After you choose a concept for your restaurant or ghost kitchen, it’s time to identify your target customer. Simply put, your target customer is who you are cooking for. It can be helpful to consider your location. Are you located right by a lot of nightclubs? Maybe you want to cook late-night junk food for party-goers. Design your menu with your customer in mind. 

Menu Design

Your menu design is essential to marketing your restaurant. If you have a sit-down restaurant, people walking in off the street will look at your menu first to decide whether or not to eat there. If you are a ghost kitchen, your menu may very well be the only thing your customer sees at all. It is paramount that your menu reflects your concept and reels the customer in. As with any effective menu design, you will want to take into account these factors:

  • Speak Plainly: Use words your customers will easily understand. 
  • Say What Is Important: Explain what is inside each dish, especially distinct stand out flavors. Remember, some people have allergies and are looking out for specific ingredients. 
  • Be Descriptive: Don’t be afraid to be very descriptive, using words to draw your customers in like “fresh” or “crispy” or “out of this world.” If you use the right language when describing your food, you can increase your sales. 
  • Describe Accompaniments: Don’t forget to include descriptions of side dishes or sauces that are part of the dish. 
  • Less Is More: Only include ingredients that add value. You don’t have to include every last seasoning; just make sure you have described the stand-out flavors. 
  • Only Have A Few Highlights: If you want to highlight something on your menu as “most popular,” only highlight one or two items, so they actually stand out. 
  • Spell Check: Make sure to double-check spelling and punctuation.  
  • Use Good Typography: Make sure your menu is visually appealing and easy to read for all ages. Don’t use strange fonts or small lettering. 

Because menu design is so important, many people hire a professional to help them develop a menu that will guarantee success. 

Food Photography

In addition to a stand-out menu, it is also important to have top-notch food photography to help market your restaurant. Quality photos of your food will enhance your website, online menu, and look great on your social media pages. Good food photography is especially essential to ghost kitchens, as your food must look good enough that your customer can’t resist placing an order. You can greatly improve your food photography skills with these tips:

  • Lighting: Making sure your food is well lit is essential. Avoid fluorescent lighting. For best results, use warm natural lighting. 
  • Presentation: The food you photograph should be presented at its very best. Don’t just snap a picture of any old dish. Create one serving specifically for photographing using your finest ingredients. 
  • Color: Food that has a pop of color photographs best. Garnish with intention and avoid monotone foods. 
  • Filters: Don’t use any filters or attempt to make your photos artsy. Your goal is to take well-lit pictures of your food looking its absolute best. No frills. Just pictures that make you want to take a bite. 

Website

Now that you have beautiful photos of your food, you will need to create a website. Having a website is key to marketing your virtual restaurant. If a customer finds you on a delivery app, then decides to look up your restaurant on Google, it’s ideal that they find your website. Similarly, people oftentimes plan where they want to eat ahead of time, so it’s essential to have a website if you own a sit-down restaurant, as well. 

Your website could be as simple as your logo at the top, photos of the food, a couple reviews, and the menu. Your website’s format will depend on your individual needs. Make sure that your website uses a responsive design so that it can be viewed on a computer or any size mobile device. 

For A Sit Down Restaurant

You’ll want to include:

  • Your location and parking details. 
  • Hours of operation and menu.
  • Photographs of your restaurant and food. 
  • A contact number.
  • Links to any delivery sites that can be used to place to-go and delivery orders. 
  • Links to your social media pages. 

For Ghost Restaurants

You’ll want to include:

  • Your menu.
  • A link to your ordering hub, be it a third-party app or a section of your own site. 
  • Photographs of your food. 
  • Links to your social media pages. 

Social Media

Social media is a great way to advertise your restaurant for free. Whether you want to use Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, social media is a great way to engage with your customer base. 

Social media platforms like Instagram allow you the opportunity to post photos of your food and see when customers post photos of your food. You can pick and choose your favorite photos from your own profile as well as fan posts to create your own visual food campaign—all from your smartphone. 

No matter which platform you use, make sure to take advantage of hashtags. Use both a branded hashtag that is unique to your business, such as your company’s name and popular food hashtags, to boost your engagement. 

Third-Party Apps

For ghost kitchens, as well as restaurants that use third-party delivery apps, you have a bit of built-in marketing from the app itself. If your ordering page features your logo and aesthetic, as well as those quality food pictures, your business page is sure to attract customers. 

Luckily, these apps use the customer’s location to recommend nearby restaurants, so you will naturally be promoted to people in your area. However, choose your third party app wisely, as the cost of using them varies from app to app. 

Mobile Marketing

A rewards program can be great for promoting repeat business. Give your customers the option of receiving promotional texts from you. Then you can send out mass promotional texts to your customers. “Tonight only! Free dessert when you buy an entree. Order now!” Include a direct link to your ordering platform. 

This is a great marketing strategy for restaurants that have opted to create their own ordering portal instead of using third-party apps. This will bring back customers for a second time, and create a feeling that they are receiving special treatment—which, let’s be real, we all love!

Email Marketing

Another similar marketing strategy is to run an email marketing campaign. When your customers use their email to order from you, give them the option of receiving promotional emails. You can send out an email announcing weekly specials and promotions. Be sure that your emails match your overall brand and look professional. Include your logo, color scheme, some enticing photos and a link to order from. 

In Conclusion

There are many ways to market your restaurant or ghost kitchen, but as long as you stay true to your brand, you’ll be on track to success. Make sure to increase your online visibility and engage with your customers on social media. After all, food is the best way to create community. By executing a successful digital marketing plan, you will grow your popularity and get to serve your amazing food to more and more people. 

If you are overwhelmed by marketing your restaurant or are not sure how to start a ghost kitchen, consider hiring a company like Nextbite to help you get on the right track. Nextbite, a virtual kitchen space, creates delivery-only restaurant concepts with high-quality, chef-inspired menus and can even provide you with the technology you need to get started. So keep cooking with love and ask for help if you need it. Your restaurant will be a success in no time!

Sources:

https://www.bu.edu/bhr/2014/05/01/the-food-photography-trend-a-discussion-of-the-popular-trend-and-tips-on-taking-great-pictures/

https://restaurant.org/articles/operations/six-steps-for-mobile-marketing-success

https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3788&context=etd

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/09/17/virtual-ghost-kitchen-restaurants/

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