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How to market and drive revenue for your ghost kitchen

 
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Many restaurants are opening virtual kitchens to elevate their guests’ experience by providing an online exclusive menu not available at any brick-and-mortar location. Alternatively, many chefs and restaurant operators launch delivery-only ghost kitchens that can operate out of a rented cooking facility or other locations without having an existing storefront.
 
So, if you’re placing an online delivery order where the food looks great but you’ve never heard of the restaurant before, chances are they’re either a ghost kitchen or virtual kitchen.
 
The difference between a ghost kitchen and a virtual kitchen
A virtual kitchen is a delivery-only restaurant concept that operates within a brick-and-mortar established restaurant brand. They are digital storefronts and menus created specifically for online ordering platforms.
 
Virtual kitchens offer an additional revenue stream to the restaurant’s business model without increasing overhead costs while providing a consistent ordering experience for their guests. Guests can reach the brand through their website, app or phone, or a third-party delivery app.
 
Examples of popular restaurant brands that introduced virtual kitchens include Tijuana Flats’ “Smack Wings” and Chili's “It’s Just Wings.” Smack Wings by Tijuana Flats launched Nov 2021 at 100+ locations and is available exclusively for delivery. So don’t try to go into a Tijuana Flats looking for a Smack Wings menu– it won’t be there. The menu features jumbo-sized wings tossed in 10 sauces and rubs like Chipotle BBQ, Thai Sweet & Spicy, and Traditional Buffalo which are inspired by Tijuana Flats’ popular line of Smack Sauces.
 
Chili’s “It’s Just Wings” is another example of a virtual kitchen and has been operating since the beginning of 2021. The brand uses existing Chili’s and Maggiano’s kitchens to cook and sell chicken wings either smoked, fried, or boneless and combined with 11+ sauces and rubs.
 
Unlike virtual kitchens, ghost kitchens do not have their own established brick-and-mortar locations or use existing kitchens to create additional delivery-exclusive menus. Instead, ghost kitchens operate out of a facility or another location that isn’t associated with a storefront and the staff prepares dishes off of the ghost menu that is only available for delivery.
 
A perfect example of a ghost kitchen is alt/grub/faction, a virtual food court by Los Angeles-based chef Eric Greenspan that offers four delivery-order concepts. Guests can order food from each concept at the same time through the Caviar app and place them all in one order or individually through other third-party apps. Orders are received at a CloudKitchens facility where the food is prepared and picked up by delivery drivers.
 
4 Marketing strategies to drive revenue for your ghost kitchen
Ghost kitchens rely on delivery app services to reach new customers. Without a physical location to drive guest engagement, these kitchens need to be seen online and gain visibility. These apps act as a search engine when guests are looking for something to eat. They can also be a headache to use as ghost kitchens pay higher fees to have more visibility or be on the top of the results list.
 
Use DaaS and an online ordering platform. A great option to turn guests who order from third-party delivery apps into loyal customers is to use Delivery as a Service rather than the marketplace from third-party delivery apps. Delivery as a Service is the process of providing an on-demand delivery fleet to businesses that can utilize it while allowing them to use their existing, branded online ordering software. Brands that use DaaS don't need to hire drivers, insure them, manage them or procure fleet management software - DaaS provides all those functions. So cut the middleman by using your own online ordering software where guests can order directly from you without having to pay fees from third-party services.
 
Social media is key. To boost your ghost kitchen brand’s awareness you need to be on social media. Without a physical location as your primary marketing tool, you need to meet your guests where they can find you– online. Establish your presence in the digital space by posting what you serve, sharing behind-the-scenes photos and videos, and engaging with your guests through conversation or tags. Guests are more open to shopping at places where they see other people. Encourage your customers to post your food and reshare the post! User-generated content boosts your brand’s reputation and guest relationship. Also, track your analytics such as days and times your posts received the most traffic to make sure you’re posting at prime time.
 
Optimized and clean website. Make sure your website is optimized to purchase things quickly and has a modern, sleek design. Guests need to find your operation hours, contact info, menu, and ordering instantly. The average customer has grown accustomed to being able to order quickly and easily online so if something is hard to find or takes longer than 10 seconds to download, they’re not going to wait.
 
Email campaigns to promote your brand. Create a strong email marketing campaign to drive guest engagement by bringing guests to your website and online ordering platform and turning them into loyal customers. Depending on your brand you can send weekly or monthly emails to showcase what specials you might have, updated menu, or upsell items. Adding high-quality graphics and call-to-actions are a great way to keep your guests engaged with the email.
 
Ghost kitchens are here to stay and will see major growth in the near future. Make sure you have the right tools to launch and market your brand!

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