Automation is the Foundation of Ghost Kitchens

self service order kiosk
Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Ghost kitchens are attracting a lot of attention from restaurant chains, entrepreneurs and investors, and the reasons are clear. Sometimes called dark kitchens or virtual kitchens, the concept of a ‘ghost kitchen’ refers to restaurants that operate exclusively for off-premises consumption. Ghost kitchens have the potential to become one of the most productive and lucrative means of serving the demand for quick service food that spiked during the pandemic and remains strong today.

However, the end of the pandemic only marks the beginning of ghost kitchens. Restaurant Business predicts that this model will continue to expand as “sales via ghost restaurants from 300 facilities in the United States will rise by a projected 25% each year for the next 5 years—an estimated $300 million in yearly sales.” What’s more, Euromonitor estimates that ghost kitchens could be a $1 trillion industry by the year 2030.

So, what exactly is a ghost kitchen? Ghost kitchens have no physical storefront and offer no in-house dining. Instead, they operate mainly through delivery, sometimes also offering takeout or drive-thru pickup. These ghost kitchens typically occupy smaller spaces than traditional restaurants and have a smaller staff as well. Because there is no physical storefront, multiple different restaurant concepts are able to make and provide food from the same ghost kitchen.

Ghost kitchens are unique in that, unlike many restaurants, they are inherently technologically-forward. For instance, the emphasis on mobile and online ordering means that the restaurant can also be easily optimized with innovative kitchen display technology.

With GRUBBRR kiosks, cash recyclers, and automated checkout systems, ghost kitchen patrons can have a curated, automated experience whether they decide to carry out or request delivery. Additionally, food lockers and other contactless and curbside ordering softwares streamline and optimize the ghost kitchen experience for both delivery drivers and pickup customers alike.

With GRUBBRR’s online ordering software, the following devices would all work in tandem to create an efficient operational flow and expedite order processing in a ghost kitchen:

  • Online Ordering: Consumers view high resolution images of menu items; GRUBBRR AI software is customizable to feature more popular items prominently, eliminate items that are out of stock, or curate menu choices by time of day (ex: breakfast showed at the top in the morning)
  • Kiosk (optional): Customer places their order on a kiosk and makes any requested modifications
  • Kitchen Display System: Order is routed to different preparation areas within the ghost kitchen, notifying staff what items need to be prepared at that station to complete the order
  • Food Lockers; Kitchen staff place the completed order in the food locker. The consumer gets a text message advising them to pick up their order in the corresponding locker cubby


Given the operational efficiencies afforded by ghost kitchens, it is no surprise that they are rapidly growing in popularity throughout the United States. McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A are also beginning to utilize ghost kitchens in addition to their regular offerings. As time goes on, more restaurants are predicted to adopt this ghost kitchen model to lower operational costs and facilitate franchise expansion.

Lower operational costs not only means more revenue, but also lower prices for consumers. With their streamlined offerings, ghost kitchens offer a more efficient customer experience as well. Whether they order from home on their phone or at the restaurant from a kiosk, customers can be assured that their experience will be consistently great each time.

Ghost kitchens are technologically-forward restaurants that operate for pickup and delivery food services only. Given their operational flexibility, they can be added to an existing restaurant as another source of revenue to facilitate franchise expansion, or otherwise exist as a standalone kitchen hosting one or more food concepts. Because ghost kitchens utilize automation, they inherently streamline operations for ghost kitchen employees, and improve the customer experience through lowered prices and consistent convenience.

This post is sponsored by Grubbrr


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