Starting Up A Virtual Restaurant (Rather Than A Ghost Kitchen)
What’s the Difference Between A Virtual Kitchen and A Ghost Kitchen?
As a restaurant operator, or someone wanting to get into the restaurant business during this pandemic, you may be thinking about starting up a virtual restaurant rather than a ghost kitchen. To help you decide which, you’ll need to understand the difference between the two.
A Ghost Kitchen is a virtual brand that doesn’t have a brick and mortar location. These businesses typically rent or lease space and sell as delivery only brands. They will often be located with a number of virtual brands, all in the same space. They are most often found in larger cities and urban areas with very densely populated cities to service.
A Virtual Kitchen is most often a virtual foodservice brand that sells out the back door of a brick and mortar restaurant. It is delivery-only like a ghost kitchen, but it is built off of the kitchen that is already established. The benefit is that the kitchen can be used to ramp up volume and keep cash flowing.
Starting Up A Virtual Kitchen
Starting up a virtual kitchen at this moment in time can be a great way to expand a restaurant business. Consumers are looking for great food that they don’t have to cook. Consumers are also very nervous about going out to a crowded restaurant. So ordering delivery is very appealing. When starting up a virtual kitchen rather than a ghost kitchen, make sure you don’t confuse your brick and mortar customers.
No To-Go, Delivery Only
With a ghost kitchen or a virtual kitchen, set it up from the start to be profitable with delivery. If the brand is only available for delivery, you can set prices to work for you with all the costs of delivery covered. Most restaurant operators who try to take their brick and mortar restaurant into the delivery business struggle because the cost of delivery companies is between 20 and 30%. They simply cannot make enough money on a delivery order to make the food, package it and push it out the door. That is why we recommend setting up your virtual kitchen as a delivery only option.
With a virtual kitchen, you’re not competing with yourself because it’s a different brand. And you’re not cannibalizing your own business because if you do it right, the brand and foods will be different.
It May Be Virtual, But It’s Still A Brand
Just because you’re setting up a virtual kitchen rather than a ghost kitchen (and even with a ghost kitchen), that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook with marketing or brand development. Keep in mind, you are still setting up a branded company. People are still buying your story as much as your food. Consumers want to be romanced. So, romance them. Tell a great story. Take really great photos. Add levity into the connection. Build a brain peg you can hang your food on. Get an agent who can develop the graphics, logo, and story for you so it’s done professionally.
Focus Your Foods On Recipes That Travel
When setting up your virtual kitchen, plan the menu around some simple principles. You want the foods you send out for delivery to be enjoyed. Some items travel better than others. As you develop your menu, cook everything up and drive it around for a half an hour and test the foods. Try different packaging styles. Taste-test everything over and over to make sure it’s not just good, but exceptional.
Many restaurant operators make the mistake of not testing the foods the same way a customer would eat them. Fresh foods in the kitchen will be at their peak for flavor. Once the food sits in a package on the seat of a car for half an hour, it will be different.
Packaging Is Important
When setting up a virtual or ghost kitchen, pay close attention to the packaging you use. Again, test everything. Some food items like pastas, Chinese foods, soups and stews travel well in closed containers that are tightly sealed. Fried foods, sandwiches, anything with bread do not. The best advice we can offer is to keep the items you sell for delivery centered on products that can handle a car or bike ride.
Pay attention To Social Media
Social media platforms are critical to the success of your delivery business. Setting up a branded presence is critical. It is also important to post a lot of content. We recommend posting at least once per day (twice a day is even better). Most restaurant operators do not post enough content. Worse, they post poor quality photos at the wrong time with the wrong message. Great social media can be the difference between a star business and a mediocre one. Our recommendation here is to outsource your social media.
A good social media company will base the posts on a calendar so you know in advance what is going to post. They will also post promotions, contests and will brand each post, so you get recognized over time.
By the way, you can also repost the same content over and over again. Keep in mind how people look at social media. They don’t typically scroll through a business site looking at each post. Rather, they are scrolling through social media and happen upon your post. They may engage, but most people do not. But they do see the post, and it does make an impression on them.
Starting Up A Virtual or Ghost Kitchen? We Can Help.
HotOperator is a brand marketing company with experience in logo design, selling stories, photography design, social media, web development, online ordering and menu design-engineering. Think of us as your one-stop-shop for building your virtual kitchen and making it a success. Contact HotOperator here!
HotOperator is a foodservice marketing agency. We love restaurants. We want them to survive. But we can’t do that unless we work together. Hire us to help you romance your restaurant brand.
Mark and Kelly are a marketing team and managing partners of HotOperator. They have been working in the restaurant business since 1989. Contact them through the HotOperator website, or by calling 800-316-3198, or contact Laux here.