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KitchensThought Leadership

What Is a Ghost Kitchen?

Thursday, Feb 18, 2021 - 4 mins

As the hospitality industry looks for ways to help restaurants survive today’s tough landscape, the concept of “ghost kitchens” is getting more attention from mainstream media.


Let’s walk through what a ghost kitchen is, how they work—and how our NBRHD Kitchens model takes the concept to the next level.

What Is a Ghost Kitchen?

While the term “ghost kitchen” might sound eerie, there’s actually nothing scary about them. Ghost kitchens are commercial kitchens that exclusively prepare delivery orders. The word “ghost” refers to the fact you can’t walk up to these places to order—nor can you sit down and eat your food there.

Ghost kitchens also tend to pop up in unexpected locations. They can be repurposed retail stores, warehouses—even shipping containers.

Ghost kitchens exclusively prepare delivery meals.

Where Did Ghost Kitchens Come From?

The New York Times credits the first U.S. ghost kitchen to Green Summit Group, a startup based in New York City. In 2013, they opened the first ghost kitchen in midtown Manhattan and, in partnership with Grubhub, served sandwiches and salads for restaurants that existed exclusively online. We call these restaurants "virtual restaurants."

Today, ghost kitchens are used by food brands of all sizes and cuisines to serve their customers. The ghost kitchen trend has also given rise to more sophisticated, restaurant-friendly delivery kitchen models—like REEF’s NBRHD Kitchens.

Restaurants of all sizes use ghost kitchens to meet delivery demand.

How Do Ghost Kitchens Work?

Because ghost kitchens can occupy as little as 200 square feet and often host multiple tenants, organization is key. Stations are usually set up according to food category, so staff can specialize and produce consistently high-quality meals.

How restaurants use these ghost kitchens is up to the restaurant. Some use ghost kitchens to create and test new menu items. Others use ghost kitchens to reach more customers in their neighborhood or seed new markets altogether.

Why Are Ghost Kitchens So Popular?

Food delivery apps like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and GrubHub have fueled the popularity of ghost kitchens worldwide. It’s now estimated that there are 7,500 ghost kitchens in China, 3,500 in India, and 1,500 in the U.S. Of course, when the world shut down to stop the spread of COVID-19, demand for delivery grew—a lot.

In fact:

• GrubHub, the food delivery platform with the largest market share in the U.S., reported September 2020 quarterly revenues of $494 million—a 53% YOY increase.

• Globally, revenue in the platform-to-consumer food delivery market reached nearly $71 billion USD in 2020. This number is forecast to reach $97 billion USD by 2024.

Apps like DoorDash, GrubHub and UberEats have fuelled the ghost kitchen trend.

Ghost Kitchen, NBRHD Kitchen— What’s The Difference?

Ghost kitchens are just one type of delivery kitchen out there—and not all delivery kitchens are created equal. Here are some of the most common models available to restaurant owners:

  • Ghost Kitchens: Kitchens that only prepare delivery meals. There's no direct contact with consumers.

  • Dark Kitchens: Kitchens that prepare meals for delivery, takeout, and curbside pickup within a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant on behalf of another restaurant.

  • Virtual Kitchens: Kitchens that fulfill delivery meals for a restaurant that is only available online. Like dark kitchens, virtual kitchens can operate within a traditional physical restaurant. Celebrities interested in entering the food space sometimes use this model to test the market.

  • NBRHD Kitchens: A REEF-exclusive model built on our international network of proprietary kitchens. Unlike other delivery kitchen models, we handle all aspects of food preparation and delivery—and we do it at zero capital expense to the restaurant owner.

Are Ghost Kitchens Right For Every Restaurant?

In short: it depends.

While ghost kitchens are cheaper than brick-and-mortar expansion routes, traditional ghost kitchen providers typically expect restaurant owners to shoulder the burden of staffing and inventory—and in addition to rent, they might even need to pay a monthly fee.

As a result, these ghost kitchens may not be suitable for restaurant owners looking for the most efficient and cost effective expansion route. Instead, we invite restaurant owners to consider NBRHD Kitchens: the only full-service partner in the delivery kitchen space.

Introducing NBRHD Kitchens: full-service delivery-only kitchens for local restaurants.

What's The Best Ghost Kitchen Alternative?

We’ve built a delivery kitchen model that welcomes restaurant owners at zero cost or overhead. We call it NBRHD (that’s “Neighborhood”) Kitchens.

Unlike ghost kitchens, NBRHD Kitchens are financially and operationally self-sufficient. That’s because we manage all of the staffing, site selection, and stock management on the restaurant owner’s behalf while maintaining the high quality and consistency standards of our partners.

NBRHD Kitchens don't require capital investment from the restaurant owner, making it an easy and affordable way to expand.

NBRHD Kitchens are also quick and easy to set up. In fact, they're oftentimes ready for immediate use, and come with everything a commercial kitchen needs—including the chefs.

We've placed NBRHD Kitchens in bustling neighborhoods with plenty of hungry customers, helping local restaurants to bring their food to new neighborhoods, cities, states—even countries. And because our kitchens are so close to where people live, meals can be delivered hotter, faster, and fresher than before.

Interested in learning more about NBRHD Kitchens? Take a look at our latest NBRHD Kitchens news below.

Think your restaurant would be a great fit for NBRHD Kitchens? Get in touch with our brand curation team.


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