Ghost kitchens come in different shapes and sizes depending on factors like budget and cuisine type. They can be classified into three main types:
Incubator Ghost Restaurants
Incubator ghost restaurants are ghost kitchens affiliated with traditional restaurants. They’re also known as pop-up kitchens. To align their businesses with current trends, some restaurateurs are starting ghost kitchens on their existing restaurant premises.
Even though incubator kitchens are attached to traditional restaurants, they focus primarily on online orders and deliveries.
Incubator ghost kitchens often start with increased local demand for a particular meal. For instance, when Simon Mikhail, the owner of Si-Pie Pizzeria, was contacted by Uber Eats about high search traffic for chicken in his area, he decided to open a ghost kitchen at his restaurant. He named it Si’s Chicken Kitchen. His incubator ghost kitchen enabled him to meet the rising demand for chicken in the area, while still serving pizza to his loyal customers.
In another example, the Concept Restaurant Group integrated the ghost kitchen model by launching the Denver Lobster Stop, a ghost kitchen started by the pre-existing, traditional restaurant the Blue Island Oyster Bar. Through their new ghost kitchen, they now sell lobster at a reduced price of $19 without a side, compared to $25 at the Blue Island.
Some ghost kitchens operate by preparing food for other restaurants. Frato’s Pizza in Schaumburg, Illinois, operates in a family restaurant setting. However, the kitchen is staffed with cooks who prepare food for four other restaurants. The ghost kitchen offers spicy chicken gyros for Halal Kitchen, salmon grilled cheese for Cheesy Deliciousness, barbeque chicken tenders for Tenderlicious, and Butterfinger milkshakes for Heavenly Shakes. Customers order their meals through online sites like Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grubhub. Although the meals are ordered from the respective restaurants, Frato’s prepares them.
An existing restaurant may set up a pop-up kitchen if there’s a need for a dedicated space to fulfill online orders. It can also act as a structured way to test a new food concept or a new revenue stream. Once established, incubator ghost kitchens help to reduce the pressure of online orders on the restaurant crew. They allow staff to work in an isolated kitchen space with its own workflow and delivery model.
Many restaurateurs find incubator kitchens to be an appealing virtual concept, given the ease with which they allow restaurants to add a new revenue stream. The owner of Frato’s Pizza, Michael Kudrna, explained to the “Chicago Sun Times,” “The beauty is I can create concepts and if they don’t work, I can move on to try another one. I will have lost weeks of work, but not large sums of money.”
Since the space already exists, the restaurant owner just needs to convert it for a different order workflow.
Examples of incubator ghost kitchens:
- Si’s Chicken Kitchen in Chicago – Launched by Si-Pie Pizzeria to sell chicken via Uber Eats to meet high demand in the area. Instead of adding chicken to their pizzeria’s menu, Si’s Chicken Kitchen is only available through Uber Eats as a virtual restaurant. During its first year of operation, the virtual kitchen was making an average of $1,000 sales per week.
- Denver Lobster Stop – Launched by Blue Island Oyster Bar to sell lobster at a discounted price. The ghost kitchen serves a few items on its menu including a lobster roll, fish, clam chowder, and chips. They focus on items that will travel well and live up to their brand.
Entrepreneur Ghost Restaurants
In this type of business, entrepreneurs rent spaces and operate them as dedicated virtual kitchens. The ghost kitchen is located in a space without traditional brick-and-mortar settings. Also known as a shared or commissary kitchen, entrepreneur ghost restaurants involve renting out kitchen space and supplying cooking accessories. Depending on the setup, multiple restaurants may share the kitchen space, tools, and appliances.
Todd Millman and Peter Schatzberg launched the Green Summit Group using this concept. They operate nine online restaurants out of two kitchens, with their headquarters in New York City.
Examples of entrepreneur ghost restaurants:
- Gabriella’s New York City Pizza – Concept launched by Family Style Co. comprising ten different ghost kitchens (Sunny Day Creamery, Pizza Alla Vodka, Munch Box, etc.). The pizza house is made for delivery and focuses on online orders through their website and third-party apps.
- CloudKitchens – Founded by Uber’s Travis Kalanick. Businesses partnering with CloudKitchens work on a delivery-only model based on their specific menu offerings.
- Kitchen United – Founded by Jim Collins, Kitchen United has a light-capital model with a complete code-safe kitchen. The kitchen comes with cooking implements and appliances. Their multi-restaurant ordering experience entails different ghost kitchens offering a variety of meals for order.
Another type of ghost kitchen is the pod. Kitchen pods are small shipping containers that come with outfitted kitchens. Kitchen pods are convenient, yet they do have limitations to consider. Zoning laws may limit you from setting up kitchen pods, and it may also be difficult to maintain safety measures.
Examples of kitchen pods:
- Good Uncle – Ghost kitchen aimed at the college student market. Students pre-purchase meal packages, and meals are distributed on specific days of the week. Students order food through the Good Uncle app or Grubhub. They pick up their meals at select stops along a predetermined campus delivery route.
- Kitchen Podular – Manufactures kitchen pods that offer takeout and delivery food services. The pods are customized for effectiveness and efficiency.
- Temporary Kitchen Company – Offers kitchen pods that can sit in driveways. Also has popup capsule kitchens for installation in rooms. This model eliminates the expenses of a rented space with its movable container.