Ghost Kitchens In A Nutshell - Food For Thought
<p style="text-align: justify;">Everybody wants to have a big piece of the cake, a piece of the food-ordering market cake. But how to being effective and efficient in this presumably new environment? This question is not new, nor are the solutions which seemed to be the answer to the question. "Delivery purpose only" kitchens or how we call them: Ghost kitchens (aka. Virtual-, Cloud-, Darkkitchens etc.)</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Looking in the rear-view mirror.</strong> Ghost kitchens have been around for long time already as food delivery became more popular over the last years, but received more focus during the recent month where the pandemic and its' limitations as a catalyst fueled the demand for home-delivery and vice versa reduced the options of dining in classical brick and mortar restaurants. This led to many of the traditional restaurants pivoting their concepts to food delivery, mostly out of necessity to survive, but also few of them seeing the vast opportunity ahead to establish themselves as a relevant player in the online food ordering market. In average, most of the "new" ghost kitchen players were able to launch and scale up to a significant size within less than 12month. 100's of billions of US$ were injected into this industry only with the last year, and way more to come. Speed is key. but we come to that later again.</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>A restaurant without seats is not a (good) ghost kitchen.</strong> In this food delivery universe, there are no fancy open show kitchens anymore, no eloquent waiters serving tiny portions on oversized plates, no ego-driven chefs competing on the most crazy deconstruction of food on molecular level. When it comes to food delivery, we come down to Maslov level 1 - basic needs. Therefore, the growing trend has been from "Experience to Convenience". In a virtual Restaurant environment, menus become numbers and brands nothing more than a bookmark in the order directory. But when abandoning the emotions and "flair" of you Restaurant, the sensual experience you used to have when sitting at the table and dining in, what is left? You become a hostage of your heritage, of your former image. Your brand has a stamp which you cannot wash away as long as you are referring to your brick-and-mortar operations. This limits you in the (required) flexibility to swap, switch and change concepts wherever needed to be successful in your catchment area. Though your brand may be famous in "Local-hero-town" now, do you think you can make it nationwide or even internationally? Off course you do, but this requires a 180° turn in mindset eventually. Identify your strongest product suitable for food delivery which still represents a significant part of you renown Restaurant DNA and build your (online)brand around it.(eventually drop others which are simply too complicated or expensive) Your "family recipe" may be the key to success when it comes to standing out of the crowd of generic pizzas and salad bowls, but you also have to be willing abandon those not suitable at all.. even if you love them. and that is the curse of pivoting. Imagine "Tino's Pizzeria" stopping to sell Pizza overnight. seems like you need a new brand name then.</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Change is your friend, creativity not...</strong> at least when it comes to operational standards. Having clearly defined SOP's is gold. You need operators who are following your standards, not ego-driven chef artists to "play around" with your recipes. On the other hand, when working with young, lesser skilled staff, you need to set clear SOP's and train accordingly so that they can perform under any circumstance. (you may miss that former "I am a chef, i can fix that myself" mentality you used to have in your restaurant before). As you are confronted with constant change of brands to utilize your kitchen and to meet the customers demand and Zeitgeist, you need to focus on settings standards for your crew. The later cooking and preparation tasks can and will be majorly supported by intelligent and modern technology whether intelligent cooking appliances or automated stock and re-order systems. One of the main benefits of a real ghost kitchen is that you can operate it without any emotional limitation. It is rather an industrial environment to fulfill the tasks required to prepare dishes for pickup. Less emotion, more efficiency. This does not mean that there must any compromise in food quality, actually just the opposite. Using the right cooking equipment which allows reproducible food quality at a press of a button of course helps when it comes to different qualifications of the operators in the kitchen. Besides that, any ghost kitchen has the freedom and flexibility to change the concept and brands anytime upon demand. Once you embrace this flexibility, change is your friend.</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Speed, it is speed you need.</strong> Unlike traditional Restaurants which are building their success on location, image, hospitality and overall dine in experience, the ghost kitchen playground is virtual and in real time. The first to establish a new virtual brand wins, the first to find the ideal location for a ghost kitchen wins, the first who starts scaling up and growing to new areas, cities, countries wins. I am online world and a generic product environment, it is the first who wins, as he can bond the end customer to his product. Same speed is also relevant when it comes to the operations. You have 5, maybe 6 minutes ideally to get your online ordered dish finished and assembled ready for pickup after the bon dropped out of your printer (bear in mind that the end-customer order may be pending for 15 minutes already as there was no driver to confirm the pickup yet, and your order was pending). Any delay will be associated with your brand, resulting in lesser customer satisfaction. To achieve that, optimized menus, pre-prepared items (ideally coming from a central production kitchen) and clearly defined tasks and workflows within your ghost kitchen are required.</p><p style="text-align: justify;"><strong>Successful setups </strong>Designing an optimized ghost kitchen from scratch to allow highest utilization, fast preparation and most efficient resource consumption will pay out quickly, especially if you want to scale-up and grow your operations. Two models actually turned out best for this task, which would be a "Multi Brand Single Operator Kitchen" (Type 5 ghost kitchen classification) where all space and equipment is shared among all brands for highest utilization or a "Multi Operator Shared Kitchen" (Type 4 ghost kitchen classification) , a typical model popular with KAAS companies to rent out the individual "boxes" to individual brand operators. Both ideally combined with a central kitchen supplying the "Mise-en-Place" to the ghost kitchen satellites offer a perfect scalable solution. This combined with multifunctional, intelligent kitchen equipment will be the most flexibel and sustainable solution.</p><p><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="https://kradminasset.s3.ap-south-1.amazonaws.com/ExpertViews/stephen.jpg" alt="" width="605" height="237" /></p><p style="text-align: justify;">The next level of online food ordering would be to bring the experience back to the (virtual) table which we missed so desperately. Think about online sommeliers offering you the upscale wine experience you expect or a private (virtual) food club where you exclusively meet while consuming the food you ordered online whilst having a decent discussion with your fellow club members.. Time will tell and also which role ghost kitchens will play in this game in future.</p>
KR Expert - Stephan M. Leuschner
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