Ghost kitchens have grown in popularity in recent years, especially during the pandemic and post-pandemic period. Various existing and new companies are adopting this trend to reduce expenses and operational risks. According to a report recently published by Future Market insights, the take-out and delivery market is going to see an accelerated demand in the coming years with online food platforms.
These platforms are gaining popularity with people who want to dine with their family at home while wanting to enjoy the flavor and quality of restaurant food. In this blog, we will discuss the various facets used to effectively improve the entire operation of the ghost kitchen. The reasons for the accelerated growth of this idea, the contribution of POS to these kitchens, display systems to facilitate operations and automated operations used in inventory as well as in the kitchen for easy food management – are some of the ideas that will be discussed in the following paragraphs.
Will Ghost Kitchen emerge as the new normal in the post-pandemic era?
As restaurants closed across the world due to the pandemic in 2020, deliveries and takeout orders soared. As a result, many restaurants have started outsourcing their delivery and takeout operations to offsite kitchens. For example, Denny’s, an American chain of table-service restaurants, launched two shadow kitchen brands in 2021 to increase its market share. The first brand, The Burger Den, offered some of the company’s favorite products and iconic items. The Melt Down, the second brand, offered artisan sandwiches. The concept has been tested in 23 markets exclusively through DoorDash. The result was a 25% increase in sales in just two months.
Additionally, the availability of online dining apps, as well as third-party delivery services, has made it easier for customers to forgo a trip to the restaurant. According to the National Restaurant Association, three out of five Americans prefer to have food delivered or taken out at least once a week. Among these five customers, one out of two remarks that they would like to buy meal kits in these ghost kitchens. For example, Postmates’ ghost kitchen model weaves together the most successful food brands, caterers and its market. The Postmates app is responsible for finding employees, managing vendor inventory, running the business, and running the kitchen, while brands get a royalty on its sales. Postmates’ rapid growth and penetration into the virtual kitchen market has generated such interest that Uber planned to buy Postmates in late 2021 for $2.65 billion.
The rise of food delivery apps has led to online food consumption growing 300% faster than restaurant consumption over the past five years. Ghost kitchens are a great way to quickly start a restaurant, but they’re also a great way to transition into a marketplace. As a result, the brand can build brand loyalty without wasting time behind a physical restaurant. Dog Haus, for example, started out with just two stores, but now operates more than 10 shadow kitchens around the world. Since March 2020, the company has launched seven new proprietary microbrands under a corporate entity called The Absolute Brands. Each virtual concept was based on a specific Dog Haus specialty, and each had its own menu. It will continue to be a company’s goal to increase the number of virtual stores.
Various companies have not only expanded their operations to online delivery and takeout, but have also introduced innovative technologies to improve their overall operations. This was done only to increase the efficiency of the business to generate more revenue.
Eliminate third-party application fees with kitchen point-of-sale (POS) systems
A point of sale system is primarily used by restaurants to accept cash and credit card payments and to manage internal communications. Point-of-sale systems have evolved into operations centers. Online ordering and delivery in particular have become more relevant as point-of-sale providers have improved their software offerings so restaurants can avoid costly third-party fees. The most popular POS systems are likely to be those that incorporate digital control. With improved POS systems, it becomes much easier for ghost kitchen operators to keep track of their various schedules – employee login and logout or food preparation time. These systems also have the ability to track payroll using the built-in clock. With most restaurant POS systems, servers can directly enter orders and request that they be sent to the kitchen. This will reduce errors in the kitchen and increase the efficiency of staff and food preparation.
Improving kitchen services with kitchen display systems (KDS) for improved customer experience
With KDS solutions, kitchen staff can receive orders directly from customers. Inefficiencies and errors caused by using intermediaries, such as miscommunication caused by word-of-mouth or writing orders on a notepad, are virtually eliminated. Restaurants can fully customize the software to suit their needs. The system allows for adjusting things like layouts, timers, notifications, and which displays have access to a particular command. By using KDS for restaurants, different customer orders and requests can be seamlessly integrated into the entire restaurant ordering system.
Automated inventory management to avoid overstocking and food waste
Automation has made it easier for restaurants to turn into ghost kitchens. With the shadow kitchen approach, businesses will need to track their inventory management to avoid overstocking or wastage and respond to their customers’ demands in a transparent manner. Thus, with an automated solution, it is possible to maintain an accurate inventory by tracking the number of ingredients used in each dish and keeping track of how many of each dish you have sold.
Even when inventory begins to approach critical levels at the end, automated systems suggest placing an order with a new supplier. Ghost kitchen operators who operate from multiple locations can use an automated solution to synchronize inventory and share data.
F&B inventory management software has proven successful for many ghost kitchens. Without leaving the kitchen, ingredients are processed and moved in and out of storage rooms. Tracking the depletion of ingredients and the production of stackable items is possible through the automated counting system. This system is equipped with a barcode reader. It can easily be used to scan parcels during deliveries or during counts. As soon as the data is entered, it is automatically recorded in the inventory module and the quantities and values are adjusted. Through this system, alerts will be given when stocks are running low and when they are overstocked.
Using machine learning technology, a ghost kitchen manager can have exact knowledge of what has been used so far and what will be needed soon. Food industry automation solutions can handle more than ingredients. They can also manage crockery, cutlery and other stock items.
Ghost kitchens can make remarkable contributions to the world of food delivery, takeout, and restaurants. From taking orders and getting them properly fulfilled, to automating inventory management, this approach still has a long way to go. To date, ghost kitchens have proven to be a viable alternative for on-site dining experiences. With this progress, however, comes inefficiencies within operations that also need to be addressed. A good way to identify and eliminate inefficiencies is to monitor order progress. Your customers will notice and probably won’t come back if you don’t respond to orders quickly.
Using 5G connectivity, ghost kitchen chefs can use smart restaurant equipment, IOT sensors and assistant robots to streamline operations. Sensors, for example, can monitor the number of delivery containers needed during peak hours or the number of eggs in the fridge. Additionally, the robot performs tasks that can be automated, such as toasting hamburger buns. With 5G, robots can communicate more easily with their potential sensors and operate with lower latency.
From a customer experience perspective, ghost kitchen brands can quickly and easily update their website and social media on a daily or even hourly basis. This allows them to stay in constant contact with their customers. Meanwhile, it becomes easier for customers to track their orders in real time, either through the third-party app or directly through the company’s website. Although robots serving food in restaurants and drones delivering food to homes are still science fiction, several automation tools now exist to improve the food and restaurant industries. Individual restaurants will be able to better manage operations and resources by implementing automation in the food industry. With this efficiency, the food business is likely to increase revenue and provide a better customer experience through the ghost kitchen approach.