Virtual or ghost kitchens have been one of the restaurant industry’s bright spots in an otherwise gloomy year.
With Halloween just days away, what better time is there to talk about ghost kitchens? In a recent editor’s note Lisa Jennings, the executive editor of Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN), called the “virtual restaurant trend” a “tectonic shift.” Ghost kitchens are delivery-only restaurant facilities. They come in more types and varieties than you might think (it’s all reported in the September 7, 2020 edition of NRN). And as Jennings says, “Whatever you call them and however you do them, virtual brands present an opportunity.”
So big an opportunity, Euromonitor International, a market research company, posits the now burgeoning ghost kitchen industry could hit $1 trillion in sales by 2030.
Jennings quotes Euromonitor’s Michael Schaefer who says ghost kitchens/virtual restaurant brands “will fundamentally change the restaurant landscape.” A food facility without a dine-in option takes a much smaller footprint, requires less overhead and allows you to operate in an off-the-beaten-path (less expensive) location.
Restaurant Business reports on research from Technomic and the National Restaurant Association which shows pre-COVID-19 “15% of operators reported using a ghost kitchen…by May, an astounding 51% had turned to ghost kitchens for some or all of their delivery orders”
As the restaurant industry continues to struggle due to the coronavirus pandemic, Melissa Wilson, principal and off-premise expert with Technomic says, “When you think about the indie market getting hammered, when it comes time to reopen—just as we saw with the food truck phenomenon—ghost kitchens are certainly an easier and cost-effective way to reopen.”
Ghost kitchens, according to many experts, will flourish even after the pandemic ends. As Nancy Luna reports in Nation’s Restaurant News, industry consultancy Foodservice IP “forecasts ghost restaurant sales to increase 42% this year with unit growth projected to grow 18%. That’s readjusted from an 8% unit growth projection pre-COVID-19.”