A ghost kitchen, also known as a dark kitchen, virtual kitchen, shade kitchen or police station kitchen, is a food preparation facility that specializes in preparing meals for home orders. It is essentially a restaurant without any dining seats or a commercial kitchen that has been optimized to fulfill orders for delivery. In other words, ghost kitchens are physical spaces where operators can create food for consumption outside the facility. On apps like Grubhub and DoorDash, listings of restaurants that operate with ghost kitchens don't look any different from traditional establishments. For example, in my hometown of Northern Colorado, there is a restaurant called Rocco's Ravioli that appears on delivery apps.
However, Rocco's doesn't have a shop window. It is actually a food delivery service that prepares its meals in a ghost kitchen. In such a kitchen, you are able to cook in an environment that has been optimized for delivery and designed to reduce unnecessary costs. The rent is low and the efficiency is high; you have your own private commercial kitchen space inside a delivery center to prepare orders. It can be difficult to expand your traditional restaurant due to high overhead costs.
However, since ghost kitchens act as satellite kitchens from their main base of operations, they can easily expand from coast to coast with little capital. Food costs represent another part of your income, but ghost kitchens usually focus on a niche or a limited menu. Even national chains such as Chili's and Applebee's have used ghost kitchens to maintain cash flow and try out new menu dishes with different brands in case the ideas fail. Therefore, if a national restaurant chain doesn't want to enter the ghost kitchen market, there's no reason why it can't rent its space to another chef who does. Ghost kitchen facilities can offer different types of food under one roof, satisfying the consumer's appetite for convenient variety.
Ghost kitchens have helped traditional restaurants recover their losses and minimize employee layoffs by allowing them to prepare food for several brands and stay in business. Big companies such as Panera Bread have also used ghost kitchens to test out new concepts, as they recognize that the next step in food is technology-driven. Physical stores can also use apps, but ghost kitchens don't rely on foot traffic to sell. A ghost kitchen is where virtual restaurants produce food without a physical store to call home. In short, a ghost kitchen provides you with an opportunity to build a successful restaurant concept and get back to normal. Ghost kitchens are here to stay, and with these five benefits, it can be hard not to get in on the action: low overhead costs; optimized delivery; ability to expand quickly; ability to test out new concepts; and offering variety under one roof.
All of this has only made ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants even more of the culinary spotlight, ensuring that they are here to stay.