5 steps to start a successful ghost kitchen
The benefits of ghost kitchens are undeniable, but opening a ghost kitchen can seem overwhelming. There’s a long road between getting started and delivering your first order, so we’ve broken the process of how to start a ghost kitchen into four digestible steps to help launch your virtual kitchen and start turning a profit.
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Step 1: Find real estate
The first step toward starting your ghost kitchen is finding the perfect space — within your budget, has enough room for your new business, and is near a neighborhood with demand for delivery. There are three main avenues for finding the right space for your kitchen.
1. Use your existing kitchen space
If you have an existing kitchen, you already have the perfect space! The trick is making room for your new virtual brand. Section off areas of your space specifically for your new ghost kitchen, like a corner of your kitchen for food prep and a clearly identifiable outpost for easy pick-up.
2. Set up shop at a kitchen for rent
If you don’t have enough space in your current kitchen, companies like KitchenUnited and All Day Kitchens offer ready-made commercial kitchen spaces — some even come with pre-existing staff for ghost kitchens. This takes the hassle out of a long search process and quickly gets you up and running!
These ghost kitchen real estate spaces pare particularly helpful for merchants who’re new to virtual kitchens. They’re a low-risk way to get started with a built-in support network of other virtual kitchen operators. They also provide essential resources like staff, restaurant technologies, and high-quality advisory teams to launch your ghost kitchen on the right foot.
3. Partner with another hospitality venue
The third path is to partner with a local restaurant, hotel, or catering company. Most hospitality businesses don’t keep their kitchen running 24 hours a day, and many cut operation hours due to the pandemic and rising shortages.
These partnerships help hospitality businesses keep money coming in by renting their space during downtimes. This option is perfect for seasoned operators who know the industry well and can negotiate a good deal with the host kitchen, creating a win-win for everyone.
Step 2: Set your delivery window
Choose a set number of days and hours (like when your normal operations are usually slower, and there are fewer dine-in guests) to enable delivery for your virtual kitchen during those times only. This helps prevent your staff from getting overwhelmed with orders and make sure every order sent out is top-tier quality.
Many contactless ordering providers work with you keep your restaurant and ghost kitchen finances separated to make accounting and reporting simpler.
Step 3: Hire and retain delivery couriers
The best option for keeping your food delivery sales high and long-term survival is first-party delivery. Without it, you’re severely limiting your off-premise margins and your bottom line. Luckily, setting up your ghost kitchen’s driver pool is relatively simple these days thanks to the growing popularity of white-label delivery services.
DoorDash Drive, Orkestro, and C3 are perfect for ghost kitchens that want a “hands-off” approach to managing drivers. Instead of going through the hiring and training process yourself, you can use a white-label service to manage and direct drivers for a relatively small fee per delivery.
For established restaurants looking to open a virtual brand, consider cross-training your current employees — no need to combat the labor shortage! This way, your staff can pick up more hours when they’re low, and with the possibility of increased wages and tips, you make your business a more lucrative place to work.
Step 4: Get your menu online
A well-thought-out digital restaurant menu pays dividends in the long run. Diners want a five-star ordering experience on par with Starbucks or Chipotle, so giving guests the ability to customize their order is essential (lettuce-wrapped burger, hold the mayo, please!). An interactive digital menu makes it simpler, faster, and easier to order, setting you apart from the competition and making diners want to return.
Partner with a restaurant technologies company like Bbot to build and host your online menu — our all-in-one ghost kitchen platform gives you the digital menu software you need personalize the ordering process. Easily manage the flow of orders to keep staff from getting overwhelmed, and quickly update your menu across first- and third- party platforms with the click of a button. Guests can customize their orders down to the sauce to get what they want with fewer errors due to missed notes. Satisfied customers drive more delivery orders — kitchens using Bbot’s platform see delivery check sizes increase by 30%.
And don’t forget about your third-party app ghost kitchen menus! Most ghost kitchens use “dual ordering,” a combination of first and third-party delivery, to drive as much ghost kitchen revenue as possible. Popular third-party apps like DoorDash and Grubhub help first-time customers find your ghost kitchen through an established marketplace. Make the digital menu for your restaurant stand out from the crowd by investing in sponsored spots or offering promos through these sites.
After your ghost kitchen concept is up and running, you can think about adding new brands to create a virtual food hall with your existing resources. Tomlinson Brands saw a monthly $32K increase in revenue after bringing eight different off-premise brands together, making it easy for guests to pick from all their favorites in one place. Digital menu providers like Bbot make these multi-brand options easily searchable and organized, letting customers order from multiple brands with one checkout.
Step 5: Establish an online presence
Congratulations, your ghost kitchen is officially up and running! The last step in the process of starting your ghost kitchen is expanding your online presence beyond just your digital ordering site to increase brand awareness and keep guests rolling in.
First, set up your Google Business profile. This is a free way to create brand credibility and is a simple way to appear in Google searches with your location, operating hours, and more. Include your logo, food images, links to your menu, and contact info. Don’t forget to list your first-party ordering site as the *preferred* order method to help drive guests to your highest-margin channel!
Social media is another great way to increase your brand’s visibility. Creating business accounts for your new ghost kitchen on platforms like Instagram and Facebook lets you share important information (like the link to your ordering site, operating hours, contact information, and more) with new patrons trying to get a feel for your brand and returning guests looking for any updates or announcements.
Social media is also great for sharing special deals or promos to boost business. Include popular hashtags your customers might be browsing, like location-based and food-related hashtags, to make sure your posts are seen by the people you want! You can also share content from customers to help build consistent engagement.
While it doesn’t make the process simpler, breaking down the process of opening a ghost kitchen into these four steps makes the task seem a little less daunting — you’ll get your ghost kitchen successfully up and running in no time.