05 Apr 3 Types of Ghost Kitchens and Which One Is the Best Business to Start
In our last chapter of the Ghost Kitchen 101 Series, we learned that cloud kitchens are commercial kitchen spaces that provide food businesses the facilities and services needed to prepare delivery-optimized menu items.
In this article, we’ll go over the different types of ghost kitchens and how to tell which one is right for your business. But first, let’s look at how ghost kitchens differ from traditional restaurants.
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Ghost Kitchen vs Traditional Restaurant Operations
Although they both operate within the same foodservice market, ghost kitchens operate very differently than traditional restaurants. The significant difference is, of course, the food. Unlike dine-in restaurants, cloud kitchen menu items are optimized for ease of production and food quality reliability when delivered.
Another difference is the business approach. Cloud kitchens can range anywhere from adding a delivery-only brand to an existing restaurant to running a purpose-built commissary kitchen housing multiple brands.
Indeed, a commercial food production facility can host anywhere from one or two to dozens of virtual restaurants. A single restaurant might operate multiple brands under one roof. Or several different virtual restaurants might share a commercial kitchen with numerous stations of stainless steel prep tables, hood vents, stoves, ovens, and sinks.
In terms of basic needs, cloud kitchens require:
- Licensed brand or concept
- Commercial kitchen space to operate from
- Online visibility (whether through a delivery app or a website)
- Cooking supplies
- Delivery supplies
Finally, while traditional restaurants usually aim at central locations with lots of foot traffic, cloud kitchens are designed to get food out the door as quickly and seamlessly as possible. That’s why they’re usually located in out-of-town industrial complexes. They focus on having ample driver parking, driver waiting areas, and check-in stations for seamless driver pick-up.
1. Incubator / Pop-Up Kitchens
An incubator/pop-up ghost kitchen is affiliated with a traditional restaurant but focuses primarily on online orders and deliveries.
Since the restaurant already owns the space, all it needs to do is create a separate workflow and delivery model that allows staff to work in an isolated kitchen, reducing online orders’ pressure on the brick-and-mortar restaurant crew.
Incubator kitchens are ideal for restaurants looking to add a new revenue stream and see how the local market reacts to a new food concept. If a particular idea doesn’t succeed, all that was lost is time, but not large sums of money, and it’s easy to move on to try another one.
Another reason to open an incubator kitchen is to align the business with current trends. For example, high search traffic for a particular meal might indicate an increased local demand. Opening a pop-up kitchen is a great way to meet the rising demand while still serving the restaurant’s loyal customers’ regular menu items.
2. Kitchen Pods
For an operator looking to launch a ghost kitchen as quickly as possible and on a low budget, a kitchen pod might be the ideal solution.
Kitchen pods are small shipping containers that come with outfitted kitchens. On the one hand, kitchen pods are convenient because they are customized for effectiveness and efficiency. They are also usually cost-effective because a movable container eliminates the expense of a rented space.
However, kitchen pods do have limitations to consider. For one thing, zoning laws are complicated for these spaces and might limit you from installing a kitchen pod in rooms or driveways. More importantly, working conditions are not always up to par.
Maintaining safety measures in a small space with no windows is tricky. And in today’s reality, it might be best to pay close attention to employee safety.
3. Commissary / Shared Kitchens
By far one of the most well-known and successful ghost kitchen models, commissary kitchens are shared kitchen spaces owned and operated by a third-party company or entrepreneur rather than a restaurant. They usually house multiple restaurants, brands, or concepts under one roof, where staff shares everything from refrigerator space to frying pans.
Virtual restaurants typically pay for a membership or rent out cooking space alongside other food entrepreneurs by the hour. A commissary kitchen is an excellent option for restaurants looking to leverage a ghost kitchen’s benefits without having to shell out substantial up-front costs.
A typical commissary kitchen provides virtual restaurants with ventilation, sinks, cooking space, storage space, lockers, and cleaning supplies. Some may also offer kitchen equipment and dishwashing services. The more advanced might even offer expediting resources, data analytics, and even bookkeeping guidance.
A commissary kitchen offers an obvious financial advantage for operators looking to start a business using a ghost kitchen. Keeping a restaurant, even a virtual restaurant open every single day is expensive.
Whether its electricity costs or rent, there are many overhead costs that are involved in the functioning of the business. Not to mention start-up costs like leasing a building or purchasing kitchen supplies and equipment. Working from a shared kitchen helps reduce these costs significantly.
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