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Ghost kitchens technology: What operators need to know

Photograph: Shutterstock

With the rise of takeout and delivery orders at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, many existing restaurants—as well as new brands—pivoted to an off-premise-only model of business. Serving customers the great food they love while slashing overhead? Who wouldn’t love that option?

Ghost kitchens allow operators to spend a significantly smaller amount of money to start up. For instance, they can work in a smaller building than they would if they needed dine-in space, and in some cases they can even share a kitchen space with other brands within the ghost kitchen. On top of that, they can save on labor costs because they don’t need to hire servers or delivery drivers, as many ghost kitchens choose to work with third-party delivery partners.

But the lower start-up cost doesn’t necessarily mean there’s less work overall. Ghost kitchens still need to have streamlined, seamless order acquisition, order production and fulfillment plans. That’s often where technology comes in.

Paul Rubin, chief strategy officer at PAR, says, “The right platform will allow a ghost kitchen to have full control” of acquisition, production and fulfillment. “A good point-of-sale platform can operationalize all aspects of a ghost kitchen, but there is more to consider than just operations.”

How the right technology contributes to success

While some ghost kitchens serve a single brand, others may serve multiple brands. The volume of a ghost kitchen can also vary, Rubin says. “The busier the ghost kitchen is and the more brands there are under one roof, all contribute to a geometric rise in the complexity of the operation. Technology can serve as a compensating factor, breaking down the complex operation into a series of smaller, more manageable workflows.”

What’s more, having the right technology can turn a single ghost kitchen into several different successful brands, says Alex Canter, CEO of Ordermark. Ordermark offers ghost kitchen operators a turnkey setup for collecting orders from third-party sites and an easy way to manage inventory, update menus and more.

In ghost kitchens, Canter says, “There’s the ability to produce multiple menus and multiple brands out of one kitchen with one staff, one rent,” making it an appealing opportunity for independent restaurants seeking a low overhead as well as existing, established restaurants looking for incremental sales.

Of course, one challenge that can come from running multiple brands out of the same kitchen is making sure menus are accurate and up-to-date at all times. For example, if the kitchen is out of chicken tenders, operators will need to update the availability of any item that uses them. Without technology to streamline the updating process, operators can struggle to get menus updated across platforms, leading to customers ordering out-of-stock items and, inevitably, being disappointed when their order is updated or canceled entirely. But with the right technology in place, operators can head off problems like these.

Canter says, “Our system really empowers these operators to run as many brands as they’d like from a single device, with the same centralized reporting, same centralized menu management functionality and even cross-menu functionality.”

With this functionality, operators can remove a menu item from all of their brands’ menus, from all of the platforms the menu is listed on, in one easy step, saving them time and frustration from having to go through each individual menu on all platforms.

Choosing the right partner for smooth operations

For operators looking to establish ghost kitchen businesses, the opportunity is huge. Canter notes that the expectation was that over the next ten years, ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants (restaurants that exist only online—that is, for takeout or delivery only) would proliferate exponentially, but that the pandemic sped things up dramatically.

People have since adjusted to ordering food online and the average off-premise customer is no longer necessarily a Gen Z or millennial consumer. The ordering demographic has expanded, Canter says, and that needs to be part of operators’ strategies going forward. “Consumer behavior has changed, and restaurants have to understand that delivery and off-premise business isn’t a ‘nice to have’ or something to be considered.”

In order to do so seamlessly, having the right technology integrated into the business is key. Rubin says, “We believe that the better technology platforms are those that are both fast and open. Partech has always had an open API and has an ecosystem of approximately 200 integration partners that offer our customers the ability to innovate and adapt quickly.” From ordering to payment collection and so much more, working with the right partner can be a make-or-break decision for operators.

To learn more about how PAR can help with ghost kitchen operations and the types of technology available on their platform, visit www.partech.com.

This post is sponsored by PAR™

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