Ghost kitchens popped up during the pandemic as a creative way to keep kitchens open when dining areas were closed. But as the demand for off-premise dining continues to hit record highs, the ghost kitchen concept is evolving.
They began as a kind of a mystery, with many ghost kitchens opening in secret locations, allowing customer access primarily with apps and delivery. In the beginning, ghost kitchens were basically food preparation locations where restaurants shared the space to offer different food options from the same setting.
But these days, ghost kitchens are heading into the spotlight, often looking like traditional restaurants minus their dining rooms. As some restaurants are finding that off-premise business is more profitable than dining-in, they are converting to a ghost kitchen model in an effort to save overhead and maximize profit.
This year many QSRs have started moving away from the dining-in experience, with companies like Taco Bell, Panera, Burger King, and KFC favouring a larger drive-through instead. Studies show that 62 per cent of consumers prefer food delivery to eating in a restaurant, which is about a 10 per cent growth over 2020. With pick-up and delivery still on the rise, it makes sense that some restaurants are re-evaluating their business models.
The ghost kitchen of today is now more of a “virtual kitchen” where customers can order in person or online for delivery or takeout. This more mainstream concept is attracting a new crowd of restaurants that are teaming up to offer guests a unique and convenient one-stop experience. Even grocery stores like Longo’s are getting in on the market, opening a “store-within-a-store” in Toronto this summer to offer their guests a variety of restaurant choices under one roof.
With popularity comes competition. As the ghost kitchen concept grows and evolves, restaurants wanting to do away with their dining room need to make sure they aren’t trading ambiance for less overhead. A great customer experience needs to be the top priority for restaurants moving to a more virtual way of life.