The Emergence and Success of Ghost Kitchens


There are currently around 1,500 ghost kitchens in the United States. As dine-in activities at bars and restaurants dwindle, ghost kitchens continue to be on the rise. 51% of restauranteurs have shifted operations toward virtual or ghost kitchens as a low-cost, minimal risk alternative to a brick-and-mortar restaurant. A new age is upon the diner with the traditional dine-in experience rapidly changing. Chances are there’s a ghost kitchen in your neighborhood that you aren’t even aware exists.

What is a Ghost Kitchen?

While a ghost kitchen may make you think of a haunted house, the reality is much more mundane and ingenious. Ghost kitchens are food preparation operations without a parking lot, dining room, or waiters, and no public presence. The idea is a team of cooks and chefs (or just an individual) prepares food for off-premises consumption using delivery apps like DoorDash and Grubhub. Most ghost kitchens rent professional kitchen space to create these meals.

Within the ghost kitchen industry, another emerging trend is a commissary-style, centralized ghost kitchen with many brands or restaurants working from the same physical space. These central kitchens are usually located on the outskirts of cities in industrial parks so there’s no need to pay downtown rents.

Why Is a Ghost Kitchen Different from a Restaurant?

The main difference between a ghost kitchen and a restaurant is there is no storefront or on-premises dining. While ghost kitchens and brick-and-mortar restaurants utilize professional kitchens, ghost kitchens make their money through delivery apps only. This offers the advantage of little overhead other than the rented kitchen and a few employees for prep and cooking.

What Advantages Does a Ghost Kitchen Present to Operators?

There are many advantages for operators to open ghost kitchens. First, operators have minimal overhead costs due to non-existent front-of-house expenses. Servers and other staff don’t need to be hired and the building doesn’t need to be customized to accommodate dine-in customers. Also, delivery can be outsourced through Grubhub and DoorDash. Second, ghost kitchens are easily adaptable to customer demand, changing market trends, and new restaurant regulations. All aspects of the business, such as branding, menu, and delivery, are mobile and can quickly be changed on different platforms.

Third, ghost kitchens allow you to capture a wider audience regarding geography and volume. Dine-in locations are limited by a fixed occupancy, which was reduced due to Covid-19 social distancing requirements. Finally, with around 60% of U.S. consumers now preferring takeout to dine-in, delivery demand is on the rise. Ghost kitchens allow you to meet the high demand and adapt to an e-commerce-driven service industry.

How Can Service Industry Operations Utilize Ghost Kitchens?

Since anyone can open a ghost kitchen, existing industry operations can reach further consumers by renting out ghost kitchens while simultaneously offering dine-in services in their current brick-and-mortar location. This allows restaurants to present their food offerings to customers that are too far away from the brick-and-mortar locations to dine-in. Setting up several ghost kitchens around major cities improves delivery times and quality while offering customers the food they love. The goal of the ghost kitchen is to automate the day-to-day functions using technology applications, which reduces business costs and increases efficiency while enhancing customer satisfaction, improving accountability, and creating brand standards.

What is the Future of Ghost Kitchens?

As more delivery options become available, restauranteurs shift to fewer risk alternatives that will stabilize their business. Changing to a ghost kitchen model ensures your business remains intact regardless of the COVID-19 Pandemic dining legal measures. With convenience and access to a variety of online restaurants, there is no question that ghost kitchens are here to stay and will be a major part of the foodservice industry in the future.

Looking to equip your ghost kitchen or just want to improve your takeout and delivery operations? Start with us. Click below for 10% off your order on your next visit to the Alto-Hartley showroom.