Moving Boundaries

Are Ghosts Great Chefs?

Ghost Kitchens are entering the catering scene: Online restaurants without a dining room only cook dishes to deliver to customers via delivery service. Is it the gastronomy concept of the future?

‘We want to become the second kitchen of the big city’, says Paul Gebhardt, founder of the Ghost Kitchen chain ‘Keatz’. In order to achieve this ambitious goal, the restaurateur and confident ghost kitchen operator relies on the continuous development of new food brands. ‘We are constantly expanding our portfolio to respond to the latest food trends’, says Gebhardt. Keatz kitchens only present fresh dishes that are specifically designed for home delivery and carefully tested: How does a burrito taste after spending 15 minutes in an insulated bag on a bicycle? Do chips survive the transport even in ice-cold weather? The experience at home should be as close as possible to the restaurant. Meanwhile the ghost kitchens skip personal customer contact, service staff and a good location for the restaurant. Instead, they prioritise optimal scalable value creation.

 

Data - the highest good of all Ghost Kitchen operators

The key to ensure long-term success with the concept of Ghost Kitchen is to engage in intensive discussions with the customers. Marcus Berg, founder of the Hamburg start-up ‘Stadtsalat’ (Urban Salad), is firmly convinced of this. The extra wishes of his customers are therefore properly documented and their preferences are saved. In addition, he has decided to build his business completely without external delivery services, even if this initially seems more expensive. But for Berg, this means that he retains sovereignty over the data of his customers – the greatest asset of all Ghost Kitchen operators. In order to establish a feeling of proximity even without direct interaction, each new customer order at ‘City Salad’ is accompanied by a card personally signed by the boss. The packaging is sustainable and colourful – they look great on Instagram. A hashtag and a marker, also create the digital proximity that brings new customers and binds existing ones.

 

A virtual restaurant from a Berlin backyard

With ‘Beets & Roots’, Max Kochen is part of the new generation of ghost restaurateurs in Berlin. He was one of the pioneers who implemented the concept originating from the USA in Germany. Together with Michelin-decorated chef Andreas Tuffentsammer, he started his virtual restaurant from a backyard in Kreuzberg – with a clear delegation of tasks: Truffentsammer and his team cooked as needed, while Kochen analysed, optimised, and diversified the customer data. He quickly realised: ‘Building a strong brand is a huge challenge if it only exists online.’ Therefore, after 4 weeks, he decided to adapt the concept. He has remained true to his delivery service business model: ‘We don’t cook anything that’s not deliverable’, Koch emphasises. ‘And we're digitalising everything that's not quick enough.’ Furthermore, he now also offers his guests a traditional dining room, quite analogous with seats, service – and with success: In 2018, he and his team doubled their sales. Now they will target the European market.

 

Ghost Kitchen

What is it?

Ghost kitchens work without real tables, chairs, or guests. Food is cooked to deliver. Apart from that, the restaurant visit takes place digitally. The customer data can be used to analyse which areas have the highest demand for this type of concept and where it is worth opening new kitchens.

Advantages:

Reduces investment costs, especially in the beginning. It enables you to test culinary concepts without incurring major expenses. The concept is easily scalable, because it is digital. Production capacity replaces seating capacity.

Disadvantages:

It is extremely challenging to create an exclusively digital brand that conveys the promise of enjoyment, trust and quality. For now, the concept only works in big cities.


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