The pandemic has influenced the restaurant industry massively over the past year. Thousands of restaurants had to close down permanently following the adverse impacts of the pandemic.
The restrictions against public gatherings led to a massive shift in dining habits, which resulted in several restaurant businesses’ failure. Even the restaurants that have managed to stay in business have had to alter their operations significantly due to the changing times. Dark kitchens have become the order for the day for food and restaurant businesses.
Definition of dark or cloud kitchens
Cloud kitchens go by several names like dark, virtual, and ghost kitchens. Cloud kitchens are restaurants that operate on a delivery-only basis. This means that all the food prepared in these facilities has to be consumed elsewhere. These restaurants do not have servers or serving facilities. Cloud kitchens are not to be consumed with drive-throughs. While drive-throughs also do not allow consumers to have their food at the facility, the difference is that virtual kitchens do not provide their address or deal directly with clients. Most of the time, consumers do not even know where the food is prepared.
How do dark kitchens operate
Cloud or virtual kitchens operate mainly with the assistance of third-party delivery service providers. What happens is that the restaurant or food business partners with a delivery service provider like Uber Eats, whose role is to act as the go-between between the restaurant and the clients. The following simple steps explain the operation of online or virtual kitchens;
- Clients order food via a website or mobile application from a selection of various menus
- While they order their food, clients also have to provide credit card information or choose a payment option, depending on the online platform and food business
- Clients are required to provide location information
- Once the order is submitted, the dark or virtual kitchen operators must approve it and prepare it.
- When the food is ready, the third-party (delivery service provider) picks up the food and delivers it to the client’s location.
Therefore, the restaurant employees or owners do not have to meet with the clients in person. this is the reason why they are called ghost or cloud kitchens because clients do not get any direct interaction with them.
Capitalizing on increased restaurant delivery with dark or virtual kitchens
Below are some ways through which you can capitalize on this new trend in the food or restaurant industry:
Minimizing on costs
Running a virtual kitchen means that you do not have to spend as much money running a food business as you would with traditional restaurants. With a smart or cloud kitchen, you can reduce the amount of rent you pay by getting a smaller facility. This is because you do not need space for hosting clients. All you need is enough space for your staff and cooking equipment.
Additionally, you can minimize your costs by not letting go of things like shop-design. Since none of your clients will physically visit the restaurant, you do not have to waste money on shop-design and fitting. You can also save money on furniture and staff. With a virtual kitchen, you do not need to hire servers or a valet. You also do not need to purchase furniture for clients. This is the easiest way to capitalize on increased restaurant delivery with ghost kitchens.
Exploring new marketing channels
Traditionally, the primary method of marketing a product, service, or business was word of mouth. However, as society changes and technology becomes more prevalent in various industries, new marketing channels have been introduced. Therefore, you can capitalize on increased restaurant delivery through cloud kitchens by exploring new marketing channels. For instance, you can explore online marketing channels. However, you can take the opportunity to expand your business by delivering to areas where you do not have to incur extra costs or risking the quality of your services or products.
Expanding your client base
With a virtual kitchen, you can widen your client base because your clients do not need to be based near your physical location. However, it would be best if you were careful not to expand your client radius too wide. This is because if you choose to offer services to clients that live too far from your physical location, they may end up receiving cold or spoilt food. This is the last thing you want because too many complaints may cause you to lose customers or miss out on new ones. No one wants to recommend a business that does not provide the best services.
Factors to consider when starting this type of business
Below are a few elements you ought to consider when starting a cloud kitchen:
- Packaging: Methods of packaging food to ensure that your clients receive their orders while fresh and neat. It would help if you chose packaging options that preserve the food’s temperature.
- Delivery: Choosing a delivery service provider that offers excellent services.
- The prices: You must factor in the delivery costs, costs of supplies, hiring labor, and the profit. In the same breath, you need to consider choosing reasonable prices for your clients so that you do not lose them to other businesses.
- Menu: With a virtual kitchen, you have the freedom to experiment with your menu because you will be serving a wide range of clients. Therefore, another significant element to consider is the types of foods on your menu and the costs of each.
- Standards: Virtual restaurants are also mandated by the law to meet specific standards.
Remember that it would be impossible for you to capitalize on virtual kitchens if you do not have a client-base. Therefore, it would help if you paid more attention to your marketing and client retention strategies. The trick is to provide incredible services so that the available clients recommend others and do not switch to other restaurants.
An essential element of starting a cloud or virtual kitchen is renting a kitchen. You need to find a suitable location and facility to rent a kitchen. Companies like Occupyd will help you find the best rental kitchen facilities.