What is a Ghost Kitchen and How to Open One

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    What are Ghost Kitchens?

    Ghost kitchens might bring to mind ghoulish spirits haunting food establishments late at night. Thankfully, though, it’s not as spooky as it sounds. Even though ghost kitchens have nothing to do with actual ghosts, most restaurateurs understand that opening a restaurant can be frightening. The overhead costs are high, the competition is tough, and talented employees are hard to find.

    So what exactly are ghost kitchens? Ghost kitchens, also known as virtual or cloud kitchens, refer to delivery-only restaurants that cook meals for off-premises consumption. They are built to fulfill online orders, without any public presence whatsoever. There are no waiters, no dining rooms, and no parking lots. Renting ghost kitchens allows restaurateurs to create restaurant quality food without the added cost of running a traditional brick and mortar restaurant.

    Why are Ghost Kitchens Growing so Rapidly?

    The last few years have seen a dramatic increase in e-commerce activity, especially in the food and beverage industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed online shopping behaviors, with more and more consumers now purchasing products online. In fact, the number of households in the United States that purchased groceries online rose from 16 million to more than 65 million between August 2019 and October 2021. It is clear that the pandemic has accelerated the growth of the online food and beverage industry, with the sector experiencing a 99% surge in 2020 alone.

    The pandemic has caused an unexpected shift in consumer behavior; one that urges restaurants, fast food chains, and supermarkets to adapt to the online delivery market to stay competitive. Restaurant closures, mask mandates, and mandatory isolations left consumers with no other option but to use the services of food delivery apps to enjoy their favorite meals at home; a satisfying next-best option to in-person dining. Ultimately, several restaurants were forced to permanently shut down because owners were unable to keep up with the operating costs. Without ghost kitchens, the restaurant industry could have entirely collapsed in 2020.

    As for business owners, they actually prefer ghost kitchens because they are simpler and more profitable than traditional restaurants. Operating expenses such as rent, utilities, and repair and maintenance are virtually non-existent since customers do not have to be physically catered to. This presents an excellent opportunity for aspiring restaurant owners who have cooking skills but lack startup funds, since they can redirect their focus from providing elaborate indoor dining experiences to creating simple, yet delicious meals from fresh, wholesome ingredients.

    Anyone can open a ghost kitchen if they have good recipes and enough cooking know-how – even you! All you need is a good website to serve as your “virtual storefront”, an e-commerce platform to be exact. One such company that is uniquely focused on the food industry, and specializes in providing e-commerce enabled websites for ghost kitchens is tossdown.

    Bringing your ghost kitchen menu to the fingertips of your customer, and ease of ordering, without leaving home is where tossdown’s effortless e-commerce comes in. The team can create a functional yet branded experience for your very own ghost kitchen. As the founder of the ghost kitchen you will have access to real-time data and adaptable features to deliver personalized experiences for your customers at every touchpoint. Your customers will have their favorite restaurant meal, without you having to run up the cost of running a full restaurant.

    The Future of Ghost Kitchens – Are they here to stay?

    Research indicates that people are still not comfortable with indoor dining. A recent survey showed that only 51% of the respondents planned on dining out as often as they did before the pandemic. This trend of off-premises consumption provides an environment for ghost kitchen startups to skyrocket in the coming years.

    According to Philadelphia-based restaurateur Branden McRill, “The appeal of this flexibility and  the variety of options won’t disappear when the pandemic is behind us. Think about how we used to go to the movies when you had to watch whatever you could get tickets for at the time it was showing, vs the streaming era now, where people want to get exactly what they want at exactly the time they want it. People have short attention spans too”, he said, “and constantly want to try new things. More traditional restaurants will be hard pressed to keep up.”

    This tells us that even after the pandemic is over, we can expect ghost restaurants to continue to flourish given the evolving landscape of the restaurant industry. Only time will tell what the future of the restaurant industry will look like but one thing’s for sure: Ghost kitchens are here to stay.

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