What is a Virtual Kitchen and Why are They Growing in Popularity?

hands placing unbaked bread roll onto a baking tray

The rise of the virtual kitchen, also known as a virtual restaurant, has taken the food and hospitality industry by storm over the last couple of years, and with even more force over the duration of the last six months. 

In today’s climate, the prospect of launching a new restaurant is daunting, and with good reason. But if this is a goal you’ve been working towards for many years or a life dream that you want to come to fruition, virtual restaurants could be your saving grace. 

The food delivery service market had a value of £8.5bn in 2019 and 7.5 billion food deliveries were made during the same year. The number of UK food deliveries increased by 39% over the last three years and with this trajectory set to continue, there is no better time to open your restaurant, but not a brick and mortar restaurant as we know it – create a virtual brand.  

What is Virtual Kitchen?

Virtual kitchens, aka. ghost kitchens or dark kitchen rentals were thrust into the spotlight in 2018 by Deliveroo, and have continued to succeed ever since.

The virtual restaurant eradicates the eat-in option for diners and operates strictly as a food delivery company. Not only does this have a manifold of benefits for restauranteurs in terms of costings and customer scope, but patrons also get to enjoy a faster and more convenient dining experience from the comfort of their own home. 

A virtual restaurant operates from an isolated kitchen space without a storefront, and diners will use online ordering and food delivery apps such as UberEats or Deliveroo to place their orders. 

How Do Ghost Restaurants Work?

Virtual restaurants combine the UK’s loves of convenient technology and delicious food. Customers will use an online ordering platform or mobile app to view menus of local virtual restaurants, place their order and pay for their meals online. 

The order is communicated to the restaurant who prepares the order in the dark kitchen and packages the order ready for delivery. The restaurant will also use an application to alert a food delivery driver that the order is almost ready, who will then make their way to collect the order for delivery straight to the customer’s chosen location.

The food-delivery service that transports the order is commonly a third-party provider. This is another cost-cutting solution for restaurant owners, as opposed to directly employing a full-time delivery driver. 

Why Are They So Popular?

What was once a market of fairly limited and not-that-appetising options, has now blossomed into a delectable, diverse and quirky menu of international cuisine. 

The UK takeaway industry has long been a staple for a chilled Saturday evening with friends or a saviour on a hungover Sunday morning. As the options have evolved and the ease of online ordering has improved due to apps like UberEats or Deliveroo, takeaways are more prominent than ever and increasing numbers of people choose to eat from home instead of venturing out.

To keep up with the rise in takeaway demand, traditional restaurants had to advance their services to provide food delivery and avoid missing out on a huge customer base. This has increased tenfold since the start of the coronavirus pandemic that has forced sit-in restaurants up and down the country to close their doors. 

Although ghost kitchens were increasing in popularity over the last couple of years, coronavirus will change consumer dining preferences forever, not just while the pandemic is ongoing, and restaurants have started adapting sooner rather than later. 

The future of the restaurant has changed and many traditional restaurants have done a 360 to takeaway only. Rather than keeping their original premise, these restaurants are now turning to virtual kitchens to run their operations to save on rent and overheads, let alone all of the new food startups that have been popping up during lockdown – they’re likely to be in a dark kitchen, too. 

Advantages of Virtual Kitchens

The benefits of using a ghost kitchen are manifold, and they have been the driving influence behind many food entrepreneurs and startup food businesses making a successful name for themselves in the ever-growing and fiercely-competitive food delivery industry.

Just a small glimpse of the benefits of a ghost kitchen are:

  • Lower overheads and increased profit margin
  • Quicker, more efficient service
  • Greater business and operation flexibility
  • More scope to experiment
  • Ability to meet an increase in food delivery demands
  • Exposure to a broader audience 

At Dephna, we offer flexible dark kitchen spaces with 24-hour access and commission-free deliveries. If you’re interested in renting a commercial kitchen, dark kitchens or modular cold rooms, book a visit to one of our prime London kitchen locations now.

by Dephna

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