Don’t be scared off by ghost kitchens. Use the opportunity to create new revenue streams.

As the restaurant industry has tentatively reopened, one of the biggest challenges has been maximizing the capacity of your space. Patio dining probably doesn’t fully utilize the maximum volume of your kitchen and your bartender has probably run out of things to polish. One solution to better utilize your capacity, with surprisingly little risk to yourself, is to open your doors to a ghost kitchen.

Ghost kitchens started popping up in the last couple of years to take advantage of the popularity of delivery services like Uber Eats and Grubhub. Literally, they are restaurants with no dining room — only a kitchen and an online presence. In the era of COVID-19, they are financial bright spots on the dining scene. So how can an operator, with a traditional kitchen and dining room, take advantage of this trend?

Shared Space

Catering kitchen looking a little dusty these days? Or is your baking station not making much bread and desserts these days? Renting out that space to a ghost kitchen, these days often run by experienced furloughed kitchen staff or even underutilized members of your own staff looking to make more money and grow their own brand, can help close that utilization gap.

Depending on how you configure your space, you might be able to fit in multiple ghost kitchens. Even where the actual cooking space might be limited, strategically taking advantage of underused areas like the dining room or private rooms as prep and staging areas can bring life and hustle back to your restaurant. Personally, I’m familiar with one local bar that has given up trying to serve food at all — instead turning over their kitchen to as many as five ghost kitchens at any given moment.

Which brings up an interesting point. Can you create an additional revenue stream, besides whatever you are charging for use of the space, by offering access to some of the staples in your pantry. You have something they probably don’t, a liquor license. Depending on your local ABC laws, either adding alcoholic beverages into the ghost online ordering systems or having an option to add drinks to their order using your own system can be a great way to move some of your most profitable products and put your bar Ghost in the Machinestaff back to work.

Shift Specific

Remember your baker who dreams of having her own bakery, churning out desserts and breads on a grander scale than the couple standards you carry on your regular menu? Letting her use the space in the wee hours, well before you’re up and needing to start prep, to make that dream come true while using the otherwise closed to-go window to sell her breads and pastries during the morning hours might be a win for both of you. Sales might even be extended throughout the day if all the items are packaged and ready to go, expedited by your regular staff.

Or it could be after you wind down for the evening, earlier than normal since many places aren’t doing full meal service past 8 p.m., where you could have one ghost baking cookies to sate late-night munchies while another ghost is whipping out quick sandwiches or wings and other light fare — all while generating the late night bar sales you might have been missing.

Pop-ups have been a great way to bring in business on traditionally slow nights or even nights where you would be otherwise closed. Allowing ghosts to use your space on those Sundays and Mondays, or even during unused lunch and brunch shifts, are perfect for ensuring a maximum revenue stream flowing every possible moment.

As with anything, pre-planning for smooth operations is key. Make sure they carry some sort of insurance or that your policy will cover them in case of a mishap. Coordination in the cooking areas and in staging areas for the delivery drivers to pick up will benefit all. And, as always, check ABC regulations to avoid issues.

Ghosts are a great way to increase revenue, even through rental fees and beverage sales, while reducing risk since they pay for their own food and labor. Don’t let your space waste another minute sitting idle and turn your kitchen into a profit center.

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