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What are ghost kitchens

What are Ghost Kitchens?

2020 has not been kind to restaurateurs and everyone is feeling the pinch; many have had to adapt to new business models or diversify to bring in more business. One such opportunity that has piqued interests are Ghost Kitchens.

Still relatively new to South Africa, but not an entirely new concept - Ghost Kitchens provide a unique way of satisfying those hunger pains. Darth Kitchen, a Cape Town based start-up, and The Dark Kitchen, based in Johannesburg, pioneering the concept in South Africa.

What is a Ghost Kitchen?

It goes by many names: Ghost Kitchen, Virtual Kitchen, Dark Kitchen, Shadow kitchen, Order-Only kitchen and, more recently, Cloud Kitchens. They all operate in roughly the same way – a restaurant without a storefront and usually rely on 3rd party delivery apps to take care of the distribution.

How Do They Operate?

There is no storefront so these kitchens can operate from one central kitchen in a commercial space. These restaurants then usually partner up with 3rd party delivery apps to handle the distribution while the restaurant focuses solely on the food.

Pros:

  • No storefront means you don't need to pay for that premium location.
  • Less capital outlay, you don't need to invest in multiple storefronts or the equipment needed at each location. Nor do you have to invest in delivery vehicles (if you are outsourcing)
  • You don't need full staff, because there is no front of house you only need to focus on the kitchen staff.
  • You can focus on quality & production.

Cons:

  • Less Visibility - All your marketing will be limited to an online presence and advertising. The lack of a store means you lose out on walk-in traffic.
  • Relying solely on food delivery apps leave you at the mercy of those 3rd parties.
  • Less leverage / Bargaining power.
  • You don't own the customer, the apps do. Customer loyalty and building the relationship is difficult when they are going through 3rd party apps.
  • It's still very new to South Africa, and services are limited

Should You Ditch the Storefront?

TThe conditions to run a successful Ghost Kitchen are already in place with COVID-19 and the lockdown, most customers are ordering online and getting delivery. It comes down to what you want to do with your business and what your customers want. Not everyone will return to sitting in a restaurant but there are going to be those who still love the whole dining out experience.