Celebrity brands: Six lessons your ghost kitchen can steal from Guy Fieri

Melanie O'Hanlon
Marketing Associate

Don’t let famous names like David Chang and MrBeast Burger fool you — celebrity ghost kitchens have important lessons operators can learn to boost revenue and find success in this exciting new restaurant model.

Tomlinson Brands, a virtual food hall, increased their delivery by 60%. Get the full story to see how it’s possible.

From operation tips to ideas for promoting your new ghost kitchen, here are the top six lessons to take away from celebrity kitchens.

Flavortown Kitchen — Guy Fieri

Lesson 1: Capitalize on existing menu favorites

Guy Fieri’s ghost kitchen, Flavortown Kitchen, launched in May of 2021. With several popular dining concepts under his belt, Fieri paid attention to ordering trends from his other concepts to determine what customers liked. He used this data to build Flavortown Kitchen’s menu — guests’ “all-time favorite real-deal menu items” are the backbone of his COVID-proof delivery kitchen.

Flavortown Kitchen's online ordering site

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when building your ghost kitchen’s menu. Operators with existing dining concepts should take advantage of past ordering data and customer surveys to find what customers love. Then, incorporate those dishes into your menu; guests will be excited to have their favorites delivered right to their door. Offer discounts for new menu items to increase their popularity, and run marketing campaigns to let customers know when you add old favorites back to your menu.

Lesson 2: Maximize the accessibility of your ghost kitchen’s menu

Fieri knew his customers already used third-party ordering apps like DoorDash, Grubhub, and Seamless. He took what he knew customers liked about the ordering experience on these platforms — the accessibility of the menu, order customization, and personalization in the ordering process — and used that knowledge to inform how we went about creating a first-party delivery experience. Diners can order their favorites from Flavortown Kitchen on third-party apps and directly through Flavortown Kitchen’s online menu and app.

Offering both first and third-party delivery for your ghost kitchen benefits you and your customers. This makes your menu highly accessible to guests, increasing your ordering volume and revenue. Diners can choose their preferred ordering method, leading to higher satisfaction and increasing the likelihood of repeat orders. First-party delivery lets you personalize every patron’s ordering experience, provides greater insight into guest ordering data, and generates more revenue with commission-free ordering.

Fuku — David Chang

Lesson 3: Rework old classics (and market them well)

David Chang’s ghost kitchen started as a secret menu at another of Chang’s dining concepts, Momofuku Noodle Bar. Chang took the fried chicken sandwich that started it all and used it as the main menu item when he opened Fuku in 2015. A fried chicken sandwich may not seem enough to keep customers’ attention. But Chang occasionally tweaks the recipe for the famed sandwich before opening a new location and creates press material for marketing the “bigger, crispier, spicier, and saucier” sandwich.

Additions or changes to your ghost kitchen’s menu may not be making national headlines. But, it’s still essential to keep customers updated on what’s new at your virtual restaurant, from menu items to store hours to locations. Share these updates on as many platforms as possible to keep patrons engaged with your brand and returning for more. Posting on social media, creating pop-ups or call-outs on your online menu, and adding messaging on your website are just a few ideas to get you started.

Chicken sandwich and fries from Fuku

Lesson 4: Partners open the door to new possibilities

Chang found success for Fuku by partnering with commercial kitchen spaces to support and assist the brand’s growth. Fuku recently signed a contract with Kitchen United due to their shared “passion for executing a fast-to-market strategy while maintaining incredibly high brand and kitchen operations standards.” Kitchen United’s commercial kitchen spaces operate similar to food halls to make ghost kitchens more accessible to consumers. With locations in 9 cities, Fuku has access to an existing base of customers eager to find their new favorite sandwich.

Merchants opening a ghost kitchen face a long road of unique challenges to overcome — finding partners to help shoulder the load makes the process less challenging. Ghost kitchen incubators like Kitchen United, The Absolute Brands, and C3 provide operators with resources essential to opening their virtual brands. Along with ready-made commercial kitchen spaces, operators working with these incubators have access to resources like staff, tech, and advisory teams. Use these companies as the foundation for your ghost kitchen, so you don’t have to build from the ground up.

MrBeast Burger — MrBeast (aka Jimmy Donaldson)

Lesson 5: Social media creates buzz and drives more business

Ever wanted to win a vacation getaway, see someone survive 24 hours frozen in ice, or enjoy a delicious burger? YouTube creator MrBeast (Jimmy Donaldson) can give you all three. In November 2021, the creator handed out “free burgers and wads of cash” as a pandemic-friendly pop-up to promote the upcoming opening of his ghost kitchen. Donaldson filmed the event and shared it across all his social media platforms, gaining millions of views and promoting his business before it opened.

A year later, Donaldson’s ghost kitchen, MrBeast Burger, continues to accrue fame and customers from social media. MrBeast Burger’s Twitter account, which has over 110,000 followers and gains thousands of likes per post, keeps followers up to date on current deals and promotions and encourages customers to “come for the burger, stay for the fries.”

MrBeast Burger tweet "come for the burger, stay for the fries."

Social media is an essential tool in a ghost kitchen’s arsenal. Your social channels can attract new guests even without insane stunts by using popular or trending hashtags in your posts. Encourage diners to try new menu items with mouth-watering pictures of your dishes. Posting about promotions and deals (like giving first-time customers a free treat with their meal) piques guests’ interest, driving new patrons to try your ghost kitchen and returning customers to order again.

Pauly D's Italian Subs — DJ Pauly D (aka Paul D. DelVecchio)

Lesson 6: Bring diners back for seconds (and thirds and fourths…)

Pauly D’s Subs by Paul D. DelVecchio (better known as DJ Pauly D) has simplicity at its core. With a straightforward menu and website, what entices diners to keep coming back? The brand keeps itself at the forefront of diners’ minds by encouraging them to sign up for the Sub Club, a newsletter that shares deals and specials, new menu items, and new store locations. As an added incentive, patrons signing up for the first time receive an exclusive discount on their next purchase. This regular point of contact and rewards program not only keeps Pauly D’s ghost kitchen top of mind — it capitalizes on repeat guests.

Pauly D's Italian Subs "Sub Club" newsletter registration

Revenue from repeat patrons is the easiest revenue you’ll ever earn — the customer already knows you, your brand, and your food. All they need is a little push, like a deal delivered right to their inbox or phone. Companies like SpendGo or Thanx make it simple to establish loyalty programs for diners, maximizing your profits from guests making repeat visits. Additionally, consider setting up a newsletter to keep guests updated on your business and encourage them to return for seconds.

Looking for more ghost kitchen content? Check out The ultimate checklist for opening a successful ghost kitchen to get your virtual brand up and running in no time.

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