The restaurant industry was thrown for a loop this past year as a result of COVID-19. Dine-in restaurants in particular were challenged unlike any other. In order to keep their businesses alive, these restaurants had to adapt in any way they could. A majority of them opted to utilize a restaurant-to-consumer delivery strategy in order to maintain throughout these struggles. Luckily for most of these restaurants, this strategy worked. In fact, it was so effective, that a number of them have transitioned into operating strictly out of scattered ghost kitchens.
No, these aren’t kitchens owned and operated by spooky creatures. Ghost kitchens are the latest innovative trend within the restaurant industry. These spaces disregard nearly everything traditional about a sit-down restaurant. There aren’t any tables to dine-in at, there’s no wait staff to greet you at the door and there certainly aren’t any utensils or menus floating around the space either. Ghost kitchens prioritize only the essentials, in other words preparing the food their customers order and delivering it to them; either with their own delivery staff or through a third-party delivery service.
Just how successful can this model be for struggling restaurants, though? Estimates indicate that ghost kitchens could be a trillion-dollar industry by the year 2030. Which isn’t all that surprising, considering just how transformative they are to the industry. Brick-and-mortar restaurant spaces, while classic, have yet to adapt in any meaningful way to technological advancements made in recent decades. Ghost kitchens transform the restaurant experience a digital one, similar to how Amazon transformed the bookstore experience long ago. Don’t be fooled, though. Ghost kitchens aren’t meant to run any restaurant out of business, quite the contrary actually. They’re meant to empower restaurants and allow them to expand outward to reach new customers.
This strategy has also proven to be successful for new restaurants in the industry. Defaulting immediately to a ghost kitchen can save quite a bit of overhead for a number of emerging restaurants, which can be reinvested in any way they see fit, perhaps expanding their menu options. Just how does a restaurant transition into becoming a ghost kitchen, though? First and foremost, you’ve got to find a space. Most commonly, these are small and rentable spaces in a restaurant’s local area fit for preparing food. In some cases, existing restaurants may stay in the space they currently occupy, but no longer offer a dine-in experience to their guests. Which may seem counterintuitive, but has actually seen quite a bit of success.
Throughout the pandemic, restaurants were looking for ways to provide amazing cuisine to their customers without subjecting them to an unsafe experience dining in. Which is why third-party delivery services have become so prevalent. These services, in combination with local restaurants’ food solved the issue of putting customers in danger all together. What they also allowed restaurants to understand is that without a dine-in experience, certain aspects of their operations could change. Management structure can be simplified, operating costs will decrease in the long run, price testing and adjustments are more easily coordinated, the list goes on.
While it may be difficult for these long-standing restaurants to close their doors on their regulars, especially as pandemic restrictions begin to wane, it’s hard to deny the impact that ghost kitchens have had and could have on their business. Food delivery is a convenience not many are ready to give up yet, despite restrictions being lifted. Blending the offerings of a dine-in and delivery experience is also worth exploring but is ultimately up to the restaurant considering it. For more information regarding ghost kitchens and how they operate, be sure to check out the infographic accompanying this post. Courtesy of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit Franchise.