What in the World is A Ghost Kitchen?

Turns out your takeout might not be coming from where you think it is.


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COVID-19 was grueling for the restaurant industry in a lot of ways. The fact that dining rooms were completely shuttered for months on end was the ultimate blow. It was a bleak moment for those of us who could walk (or drive) through the neighborhood and count how many restaurants didn’t survive the pandemic. Fortunately, a new concept arose out of this time that would become a saving grace for some chefs: ghost kitchens

What Is a Ghost Kitchen?

No, a ghost kitchen is not a Victorian-era kitchen with a ghost haunting its walls and ovens. In fact, they're no supernatural phenomena at all. A ghost kitchen (sometimes referred to as a virtual kitchen) is essentially an online-only restaurant with no dining room, no sign, no servers, no busboys—not even an actual address.

Chefs or companies rent commissary kitchens or already established brick-and-mortar restaurants in order to exclusively deliver food to customers through third-party apps like DoorDash, GrubHub, and Uber Eats. This idea is nothing new, but the concept exploded during the pandemic. 

How Do Ghost Kitchens Make Money?

In the age of smartphones, movie- and music-streaming platforms, and hiring drivers with one tap on your phone, online delivery is at an all-time high. When you're sitting in your pajamas on the couch watching Netflix and you just don't feel like walking (or driving) to the local wing joint, you go straight to your phone.

Well, ghost kitchens capitalize on that ideology and can make a killing. Delivery app usage increased 70% from March 2019 to March 2020. Also, in the last five years, delivery app revenue increased by more than 200%

What Are the Pros of Having a Ghost Kitchen?

Restauranteurs can save a lot of money with a ghost kitchen. Why? They don't have to worry about the expensive overhead costs of standard restaurant spaces, numerous worker salaries, tables and chairs, and decor. You just have to focus on your food costs, permits, and cooks. In addition to reduced overhead costs, it allows the ghost kitchen to focus more on a delivery-focused menu, more opportunity to take risks, and more autonomy. 

What Can We See In The Future?

The prospect of ghost kitchens increasing in the next few years is a wise one. Delivery apps are continuing to be a massive digital imprint in the industry. Of course now that Covid is slowing down, people are enjoying the nostalgia of eating socially, but the apps aren’t going anywhere. I also believe more established brick and mortar restaurants will create new identities with this idea too. Remember when Chuck E. Cheese went rogue and was serving pizza and wings under the alias Pasqually's Pizza & Wings? I believe others are going to follow suit. 

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