The Evolution of Ghost Kitchens & How to Start Your Own

Has this foodservice trend become a permanent fixture?

Ghost kitchens were once considered an intriguing concept for foodservice. However, with the growing demand for takeaway and rise in food delivery apps, they could be a mainstay for the industry.


The trending service model has been on the up for the last two years and has transcended temporary pandemic solutions to establish themselves as a true industry force. A once reluctant consumer market is also warming to the idea, with a recent study from Deloitte showing that nearly 80% of respondents said that they were likely to order from a ghost kitchen (up 20% from the previous year).


Now, if you’re not a fan of dark kitchens and are hoping that it’s just another fad, here’s a quick word of warning: it could be about to get a whole lot more fad-ee!


According to Business Insider Australia, tech giant Tik Tok has announced that they’re opening 300 ghost kitchens across the US to serve dishes made popular on the app. There’s no word on if they have plans for the Australian market, but it’s possible that Tik Tok or other large corporations may try to emulate a similar model if successful in America.


We certainly hope for bustling and energetic foodservice industry that offers dine-in experiences for consumers yearning for social interaction. However, for new business owners entering the market, starting with a ghost kitchen model could serve as the bridge between their idea and full sit-down dining experience. It offers chefs a chance to let their food shine, before investing in that next level of service.


So, if you’ve been exploring the idea of running a ghost kitchen, here are some points to consider:


1) Location, location, location

One of the beauties of owning a ghost kitchen, is having better options when it comes to real estate. There’s a little less to worry about in terms of the look, feel and location due to the fact that it’s not customer facing. However, some things are still important, and location is one of them.


You will need a commissary kitchen in a low rent commercial space. Ideally somewhere with a dense enough population to drive takeaway sales. Also consider the challenges for delivery partners and how accessible it is for them to do a quick and easy pickup.


2) Hire someone to handle your marketing

Due to lacking a store front, you’re going to be relying almost entirely on your online marketing strategy for exposure. Having a professional on your books is really valuable and will leave you time to focus on what’s important, the food. Some ghost kitchens will cleverly pose as a regular venue which could be an effective move for you. However, with shifting perceptions over ghost kitchens you could try a different approach.


3) Find your lane and own it

With so many delivery apps and foodservice businesses, it can be difficult to stand out amongst the crowd. It’s even more difficult when you don’t have a place for the public to come and eat to get a feel for your vibe. This is why it’s essential that you find a creative way to sell something people will be intrigued by. People are often overwhelmed by options so if you can capture their attention for a second or two it might be enough for them to give your business a crack.


You could aim for large group share type offerings, or perhaps a new and exciting ‘fusion’ style menu. Whatever it is that you decide to do, try to weave the theme into everything you offer.


4) Don’t skimp out on your packaging

Because you’re not hosting any dine in experience, it’s vital that you invest both money and time into getting your packaging right. It’s all about creating a memorable experience, and without that physical interaction with your customer, this is an important touchpoint. We suggest bringing your team together early to brainstorm ideas.


Questions to consider with packaging:

  • Where should the brand name feature?
  • What materials should I use? Will I lose customers if the packaging isn’t eco-friendly?
  • Is the packaging durable enough to get from A to B?
  • Is there a way to turn my packaging into more of an experience? How can I make it less disposable?


Once you start asking these types of questions, it’ll really get the juices flowing with your team.


5) Who is delivering the goods?

Finally, there’s the obvious but unavoidable decision to make in who is going to deliver the food. There are really two options here; 1) partner with a delivery app or service or 2) go it alone with your own drivers/riders.


Partnering with a delivery app is always a popular option and is helpful for those starting completely from scratch. The downfall being the pesky fees and lack of control over your food at what’s one of the most important steps of its journey to the customer.


Going it alone should save you money and headaches in the long run. However, it’s hard to generate the same kind of exposure as the delivery apps can without a complete and easy to use website, strong marketing plan and your own riders, of course.


These are just a few of the considerations when opening your own ghost kitchen. But we’re sure that there’s plenty more things to think about! So, if you’re opening your own, or are currently running a ghost kitchen, we’d love to hear from you. We’ve got a bunch of food solutions in the product section of our website. Plus, we’re always keen to promote our customers where possible and would love to share your story with other foodservice professionals. You can contact us here, or flick us a message on the Riviana Foodservice Facebook page today to start the conversation!