The Ultimate Guide On How to Open a Ghost Kitchen

Published on:
February 9, 2024
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One of the most prominent trends in the food industry recently has been an upsurge in takeaway orders. Despite the easing of eating regulations, many consumers choose the convenience of home delivery to go out to a restaurant. 

In fact, in the United States alone, 60% of consumers are ordering delivery or pickup at least once a week.

As more and more people want their meals delivered to their homes, innovative restaurant owners are capitalizing on this trend. 

With an emphasis on delivering restaurant-quality experiences to the homes of customers, ghost kitchens are delivery-only eateries. Currently, in the United States, there are approximately 1,500 ghost kitchens and counting.

Though there are a variety of entry points, the process of how to open a ghost kitchen is quite similar to that of a regular restaurant. To get your ghost kitchen exploration off the ground, we've put up this comprehensive guide.

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What Is a Ghost Kitchen?

Ghost kitchens, often referred to as dark kitchens, are commercial kitchens designed with third-party food delivery services in mind. 

There is a large concentration of delivery demand in the locations where each delivery kitchen is located. There is no physical storefront for the kitchens themselves, and the employees make food from their menus that are exclusively delivered. 

Consider it as a digital storefront that functions as a virtual restaurant, with a few employees in the back of the house handling online orders. 

You can reach more potential customers with your digital presence than you ever could with a physical location alone since it doesn't confine you to a single location with exorbitant operational costs. 

When compared to brick and mortar, ghost kitchens offer you great real estate at a far lower cost. They also provide fulfillment and logistical services, freeing you up to concentrate on cooking. The possibility to develop new brands and manage several virtual restaurants from one location is endless when using ghost kitchens since your presence is online.

Realizing the concept's value for customers helps you to realize how important it is to perfect delivery to better serve their demands by opening a ghost kitchen.

You can take advantage of the online delivery market with ghost kitchens, which is expected to develop at a quick rate and reach $1 trillion by 2030.

To take advantage of consumer demand, it is more important than ever for restaurants to adjust to the online delivery market and capitalize on how to open a ghost kitchen. Building a delivery business with a ghost restaurant or ghost kitchen setup concept that operates depending on current demand is essential to staying competitive.

Types of Ghost Kitchens

Two popular "ghost kitchen" models have developed in the food delivery sector. You can tailor a  ghost kitchen setup to meet your unique requirements because of its adaptability. 

  • The Popup Model: The popup kitchen concept is perfect for establishments that already have a dining area, as opposed to the more transient popup restaurant. These restaurateurs have successfully executed it by specializing in delivery-only menu items. It's a terrific way to simplify their delivery service and corner a certain cuisine category. 

In most conventional restaurants, there is a distinct area called the "popup kitchen" that handles all of the food for delivery. This area is staffed independently. This business concept is great for trying new things and specializing in a certain kind of food to increase your income. 

  • The Commissary/Shared Kitchen Model: The commissary kitchen approach can be viable for those without a physical storefront. Renting shared cooking space is a way to lower the startup expenses of a dine-in restaurant using this method. 

These locations come equipped with batch cooking facilities, enabling you to start a ghost kitchen immediately. Storage facilities in areas with high delivery demand often feature kitchens, allowing you to focus on efficient food production and rapid turnover.

  • Incubator kitchens: A pop-up kitchen, incubator kitchen or both can be located in a food truck, a kiosk, or even an annex to a permanent restaurant. The purpose of these makeshift kitchens is to fulfill customers' delivery orders.  

To avoid inefficiencies and wrong deliveries caused by a single kitchen handling all orders, this lets staff divide and conquer by transferring the delivery duty to the incubator kitchen. 

Each delivery order that comes into the brick-and-mortar restaurant is intended to be processed efficiently by these kitchens. A specific area can be set up for the preparation of orders and another for the handoff to the incoming delivery drivers.

  • Kitchen Pods: Moving kitchen pods from one spot to another, from a parking lot to behind a restaurant, is much easier than moving other kinds of ghost kitchens. Shipping containers are a common material for these kinds of mobile kitchens. With this, eateries can bring their cuisine to any location and serve clients right where they are. 

The Structure of a Ghost Kitchen

So, what is the process of how to open a ghost kitchen?  With the ghost kitchen approach, operations are streamlined to focus on takeaway orders, whereas conventional brick-and-mortar restaurants must consider various elements to produce an appropriate atmosphere.

With fewer employees to worry about, customers can expect an even better purchase and delivery experience thanks to this streamlined strategy. Order monitoring, food packing, kitchen layout, and menu items are all fine-tuned for maximum efficiency. 

Ghost kitchens are smaller in size and do not employ any hostesses or servers from the customer side. Ideas for "ghost kitchens" might take many different forms. To consistently provide a variety of menu items from various brands, ghost kitchens depend on technology that offers more flexibility and diversity. 

With multi-purpose cooking equipment like a Combi oven or Vector oven, you can create a wider variety of dishes. Holding equipment lets you keep food hot while vehicles are en route to collect it, while a QuickChiller speeds up the chilling process during preparation. 

With the correct tools and mechanisms in place, opening a ghost kitchen, as a dynamic model, can assist you build or grow your income streams.

How Do Ghost Kitchens Work?

Renting up space at a facility to prep delivery orders is the first step when you start a ghost kitchen also known as a virtual kitchen. 

Every pre-existing kitchen has all the essentials plus some personalization choices to make it perfect for you and your customers. With more leeway than ever before, you can tap into your inner chef and experiment with different menu items and ideas. 

A ghost kitchen is an online-only, delivery-only restaurant. There are often two distinct forms that this takes:

This is one possible layout for one of those two ghost kitchens.

In the first scenario, a restaurant owner has a fantastic concept for a taco business but isn't interested in the hassle of maintaining a traditional restaurant with tables and chairs for customers to eat at. 

Rather than doing it alone, he signs a contract with a local commercial kitchen to store goods, prepare meals, package them, and arrange for delivery. 

As for the second choice, it involves a restaurateur who currently operates a well-liked physical restaurant. However, she has a business concept for a restaurant that will serve a selection of upscale grilled cheese sandwiches at all hours of the night. 

That kind of food wouldn't be appropriate for her restaurant, in her opinion. Since she is already skilled in the kitchen of her restaurant, she decides to open a grilled cheese restaurant that is only available online and offers delivery. Just one kitchen, but two eateries.

The examples given here are just basic. The idea of a "ghost kitchen" remains the same, though: it's an online eatery that only serves customers' delivery requests. Customers are not able to eat at any particular location.

Factors To Consider When Opening a Ghost Kitchen Set Up

The ghost kitchen setup offers advantages and disadvantages, just like any other new venture. Before deciding on how to open a ghost kitchen to your delivery operation, think about the following:

Reduced Costs

Ghost kitchens sidestep a lot of the costs that come with starting a regular restaurant. Restaurant Engine reports that, on average, a restaurant needs $275,000 to get up and running. In comparison, one restaurant owner who used a "ghost kitchen" to start his company spent $20,000 on a shared kitchen. 

Are ghost kitchens profitable?

To maximize profits, the best ghost kitchens focus on a single cuisine category and offer just a few menu items. This allows them to create dishes that are popular with customers and sell out quickly. 

The delivery-focused model also saves you money because it requires less staff. With no actual face-to-face customer interaction, ghost kitchens eliminate the need for front-of-house staff and often function well with a few chefs. 

The reduced staff provides more predictability in scheduling and a maximized workflow, ultimately saving you time and money. Additionally, programmable equipment that cooks food more consistently can also reduce training and labor in the kitchen. 

Location is Key

Given the emphasis on takeout orders, it is critical to satisfy delivery requests promptly.  When opening a ghost kitchen, it should ideally be located within a delivery radius of three to five miles from the customers you serve. 

While you may be able to save money on rent by operating out of a shared facility, the location will be farther from the populated neighborhoods where your clients reside. Think about how far away busy city centers are from where you're planning to produce food before you commit to a shared kitchen.

Not Reliant on Foot Traffic

The success of a restaurant is affected by its location. A restaurant can't survive without good cuisine, but it may thrive with regular customers. 

If takeaway is your main concern, however, the ghost kitchen approach may be used regardless of whether the food is prepared in a conventional or commissary kitchen. Delicious, quickly delivered food is the key.

How to Set Up a Ghost Kitchen or Virtual Restaurant?

Are you thinking of how to open a ghost kitchen? To begin, follow these steps.

Step 1: Choose Your Concept

Choosing a concept for your ghost kitchen setup is the first step. In this regard, you could achieve success with your virtual restaurant by using the following methods:

  • Look for an unmet need in the area of the delivery region and see if you can fill it. For instance, a new restaurant could capitalize on a need for wings by opening up a shop in your area if you don't have any good options nearby.
  • Verify that your idea is optimized for delivery. Not all foods are well-suited for transport. Pick an idea that revolves around items that can be transported and packed without compromising on quality.

Step 2: Find a Location

If you currently have a restaurant and are adding a virtual idea to your existing kitchen, great! You can skip this step.

Finding a certified commercial kitchen to store and cook your food is an essential first step in launching a ghost kitchen setup from the ground up. It might be more cost-effective to rent an area remote from residential neighborhoods, but this could complicate your delivery operations, so bear that in mind when you choose your site.

If you want to open a restaurant in your hometown, you'll need to register your company, get a certificate to handle food safely, get insurance, and follow any other rules and regulations that pertain to running a restaurant in your area.

Step 3: Choose Your Providers

Finding suppliers for ingredients, containers, and other necessities is the next stage. But another option is to begin looking for a delivery service.

Many choices are available to you about this. The third-party food delivery app industry has been growing rapidly in recent years, and with good reason: it's a simple and fast method to reach local delivery consumers. 

But there are significant negatives to adopting such platforms—namely, the expense. The operators of "ghost kitchens" see the high prices charged by these services—which sometimes include commissions on customers' orders—as a cost they must bear to avoid the hassle and risk of managing their drivers.

If you choose to handle delivery in-house, you'll need to have the appropriate equipment. See below for more details about it.

Step 4: Use Data to Iterate on Successes

You can optimize your virtual restaurant by adding new products to the menu, analyzing the success or failure of each item, and repeating the process once you begin serving orders from your ghost kitchen.

The catch is that you can't do this without customer order and demographic data. And if you utilize a third-party delivery app, it receives that important guest data, and it probably won’t share it with you.


The potential rewards of operating a ghost kitchen outweigh the difficulties, so long as you're up for the task. So, to make sure your ghost kitchen is a success, do your homework on how to open a ghost kitchen and follow the guidelines to the T. 

Opening a ghost kitchen can be made possible in a flash with some diligence and the correct equipment.

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