What do restaurateurs need to know about ghost kitchens?

What do restaurateurs need to know about ghost kitchens?

Maybe you have seen what look like abandoned restaurants with blacked out windows. There are no diners, but random people show up at the back door to pick up a package. These spooky restaurants aren’t haunted, they are ghost kitchens.

This article will explain what ghost kitchens are, how they got their start and how ghost kitchens are poised to lead a major change to the food service business in the future.

What is a Ghost Kitchen?

One of the hottest buzz-concepts in the foodservice industry right now is “ghost kitchen”. They started popping up in 2019 with the rise of popular food delivery apps like Uber Eats, Grubhub and DoorDash.

The secret of the ghost kitchen is that there is no actual restaurant you can dine in. They only offer ordering online. For this reason they are also called “virtual restaurants”.

That’s what makes it a “ghost kitchen”. You search for the restaurant with that killer garlic bread you ordered the other night, but you can’t find it on Google maps. And when you get there it looks like an abandoned building.

How did ghost kitchens start, and where are they going?

With the rise in online food delivery platforms someone got the idea that they didn’t need to have an actual restaurant to use these services and access their customer base.

Ghost kitchens started as a way for small operations like food trucks and catering companies to market themselves as “restaurants” and benefit from the boom in online ordering.

However, it didn’t take long for the companies that run these delivery services to catch wind of this trend. As market disrupters themselves, they could smell the opportunity, attracted by the cost savings inherent in the ghost kitchen model.

Soon you may see a shuttered restaurant with a fresh coat of paint and a new sign that says “DoorDash” or “Kitchen United”. And Uber’s founder has created a new startup called “Cloud Kitchens”.

How Ghost Kitchens are Disrupting the Food Service Industry

These new ghost kitchens are big business offering something different in the restaurant industry, renting or leasing space to both independent restaurateurs and fast-food stalwarts like Chick-fil-A. These locations are designed for strictly optimal delivery logistics.

Offering the latest in commercial kitchen infrastructure, chefs work side by side preparing dishes for multiple different “restaurants”, not for the dining room, but for delivery.

And since these restaurants are only available for delivery orders through 3rd party online ordering apps like Postmates, DoorDash, and Grubhub, they gain an advantage in a few key areas:

  • 3rd party delivery services handle marketing — Ghost kitchens don’t have to advertise or spend money on marketing.
  • Avoid prime real estate — Since ghost kitchens don’t have to be in the ritzy part of town to deliver to those customers. They don’t need to be close to main roads or depend on foot traffic either.
  • A smaller footprint — Since there’s no parking and no dining room the real estate costs are reduced significantly.
  • Reduced labor costs — There is no front of house to serve guests and no cashiers, so it’s all cooks and back of house staff. This basically cuts half the labor requirements for the restaurant.

Since there are no customers on site to serve, the focus is on high quality and high production. That’s why restaurants with brick and mortar locations also like to use these virtual kitchens, taking the burden off staff in the restaurant to manage these delivery orders.


Ghost kitchens are the opposite of the typical fine dining experience. They are designed strictly for getting food into the hands of consumers quickly. Today, many people are too busy to prepare their own meals, or they simply enjoy the quality and variety of expertly prepared meals, without having to leave home.

As a restaurant owner, it’s important to be aware of these trends. Perhaps an off-site ghost kitchen of your own can help target more delivery business without creating bottlenecks in your dining room. Or you may see the opportunity to expand your food truck or catering business without adding the additional labor and site costs.

Either way, the ghost kitchen concept appears to be quickly gaining momentum as it solves key competitive challenges in the food service space.

For more cutting edge expertise in the ever changing restaurant and service industry, you can count on your partners at Rezku. Since 2012 we have been at the forefront of restaurant technology, bringing you the tools you need to stay competitive.

From table management and reservations systems to online ordering, loyalty programs and point of sale, Rezku helps you do more. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Learn more about Rezku on our homepage, and find more articles like this in our free Restaurant Management Library.

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