Are you looking for a low-risk, low-capital way to jump into the ghost kitchen concept? Then you’ve come to the right place. Ghost kitchens are the latest trend to hit the restaurant industry, and they’re only going to get bigger. But how do you begin? Here are 11 steps to setting up a ghost kitchen (aka Dark Kitchen) in 30 days or less.
Step 1: Choosing the Right Concept
Like any other business, you need to understand your customers. For example, if you want to serve organic street tacos, you need to know if people really want organic street tacos. Before you begin, do extensive market research to find out what the people want in your ghost kitchen launch city.
Go online and google your customers. Look at statistics of the food people are eating and start to think about how you can repackage the same concept. Sometimes you may believe you need to have something totally unique, but really you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You need to find a need and fill it. Knowing who your customers are and what they crave is the first step.
Step 2: Study Your Competition
Now that you’ve narrowed down a ghost restaurant concept, take a look at your competition. You need to discover how you can differentiate from them and position yourself to grab some traffic.
If we go back to our example from above, ask yourself what kind of twist can you put on organic street tacos to make them stand out? It is important to remember however, if you don’t have a passion for the idea, don’t dive in. Even if you think people will love organic buffalo bites, it doesn’t mean you will.
Step 3: Figure Out Your Finances and Budget
Okay, you’ve got a concept and understand differentiation, now’s the time to study the finances. What will it take to get the ghost kitchen online and serve its first customer? You’ll need to look at the kitchen equipment, staffing, packaging, and delivery technology.
Figuring out your start-up costs and budget for the first six months right from the beginning will help you build a successful ghost kitchen.
Step 4: Craft the Right Menu Items
For any online restaurant, the rule of thumb is to not have more than 10 items on your menu. Any more than that, the customer becomes paralyzed by all the choices. Plus, too many things equals lots of ingredients. And you know what happens then? Yep, a whole lotta waste.
Another consideration is are the food items suitable for delivery? Street tacos with lots of sauce may end up as a mess on soggy tortilla. You want a small menu of portable food that arrives hot and tasty. Otherwise, you won’t have repeat customers. Your goal is to choose food that results in high margins, is easy to make, and has a quick production time.
Step 5: Pay Attention to Packaging
Packaging up food can cut into margins pretty quickly, so you may be tempted to go cheap. Be warned, more affordable isn’t necessarily better in the long run. You may need to invest in packaging that keeps the food warm and matches your brand.
Packaging that makes the food look bigger, stay warmer longer, and look attractive is worth the investment. You may never meet your customers, so your packaging has to make the right impression.
Step 6: Pick the Perfect Location
While you may not have to worry about foot traffic, you need to pick a convenient location for delivery. One of the most significant savings of a ghost kitchen is that you pay substantially lower rent, but how accessible is it for your demographic and delivery drivers matters.
Do the delivery drivers have parking? Is it on the ground floor? The ShiftPixy Labs Ghost Kitchen Incubator Program can help you with all of these things when starting your new concept.
Step 7: Choose Native Delivery
Okay, you’re thinking of using a third-party delivery app, but then yikes, all the fees. There is another choice that doesn’t require a lot of money— native delivery with ShiftPixy.
Native delivery allows you to enjoy a branded online platform that streamlines food delivery and will enable you to keep all your own data. All without having to pay out 20-30% of your profits. ShiftPixy helps with the traffic and takes care of the tech, so you can focus on the food.
Step 8: Consider Your Kitchen Equipment
Not every kitchen is equal, and this is true for cloud kitchens. When looking at your cloud kitchen location, do your research on what equipment comes with the rental space and what you’ll need for your dishes.
Perhaps, you need a stove, fryer, and nothing else. What does the fridge space look like? Can you bring in your own equipment? What about utilities? Answering these questions in the beginning helps you choose the right place for your kitchen and your budget.
Step 9: Think About Licensing
Cloud kitchens take care of the licensing most of the time, but you may still need a proper business license. Research what you need for your city before getting started.
Sometimes a permit can take a few days or a few weeks. Ask ShiftPixy for a consultation for first-time restaurateurs (we’ve got experts who know about this stuff).
Step 10: Take a Look At Staffing
Well, no customers are coming through the doors, but you still need to look at filling some key back-of-the-house positions. You need to find cooks that can handle the pressure and can multitask. Besides line cooks, you may need to hire an operations manager and delivery drivers.
ShiftPixy offers a total staffing solution for ghost kitchens. You can hire qualified restaurant workers trained in your brand and available immediately. All through an easy-to-use gig platform, making it possible for your ghost kitchen to be up and running in no time.
Step 11: Choose Your Marketing Strategy
A ghost kitchen restaurateur has to think about many spinning plates, and one of them is marketing. There’s no foot traffic, so you need a robust online presence and a winning marketing strategy.
It’s important to remember that there’s no one size fits all marketing approach, and what works for one may not work for another restaurant. But you do need appealing photos and a professional website to build trust and grab online orders.
You also need to strategize on where and how to reach your customers. Instagram may be where the health-conscious foodies reside, and your vegan, organic blue corn tacos may be the perfect place to get them. Or TikTok is where Gen Z calls home and looks for food delivery.
You may also want to consider email marketing as a way to build trust and increase sales. Shooting off regular emails that bring your customer value and nurtures them into repeat sales may be a critical part of your marketing strategy. How you reach your customers is just as important as how the food arrives.
Setting up a ghost kitchen in 30 days or less is possible with these key steps. There’s a reason it’s the next hottest thing since sliced bread. Or was it craft beer? Hard to keep track. In any case, ShiftPixy is here to help. The ShiftPixy Labs Ghost Kitchen Incubator Program nurtures ghost kitchens into superstars. We know just how to follow the steps.