2023 Guide to Ghost Kitchens

Some fresh headlines and new tips on the latest trend in food delivery.
It’s been a while since we’ve talked about ghost kitchens. The concept was first introduced a few years ago. And while they’re not as big of a news item these days, they’re still around—mostly.

Some restaurant brands are enjoying massive spikes in revenue thanks to their ghost kitchens. One brand’s gross sales went from $400-500 weekly to $1,600-1,700 after just a month of ghost orders. With the right menu, there’s real money to be made.

Ghost kitchens have created the illusion of a new culinary experience by dressing up an old favorite. A March 2023 tweet went viral when a delivery customer discovered his gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches were being made at Denny’s. A little rebranding was taken to separate the meal from its true place of origin. Many restaurants have successfully leveraged this tactic to attract new customers.

However, not all ghost kitchens have been so successful. Epic Kitchens, one of the most prominent players in the Chicago food scene, appears to have closed after less than two years. Beforehand, the company appeared, by all accounts, to be thriving. Reviews were good, their digital presence was strong, and the facilities were bright and inviting. And then, one day, the lights were off.

The circumstances are somewhat mysterious: A “closed until further notice” sign appeared on the facility’s door a few months ago. But the company never released a formal statement explaining what happened or why they closed.

Ghost kitchens are still a newer business model. Some have been successful; others haven’t. If your restaurant delivery service (RDS) hasn’t partnered with one, you may be thinking about it.

Should my RDS partner with a ghost kitchen?

We’ve written about partnering with ghost kitchens before. So here are some refreshers – and one fresh tip.

It’s important to remember that the delivery person is the only live human representative of the ghost kitchen. Because a ghost kitchen has no storefront, the customer will never interact with a host, a server, or a bartender. They won’t even speak to someone on the phone. As a result, there can be a lot of pressure on the delivery driver to make an excellent impression.

This can be a real advantage for your RDS because you handpick your drivers. Anyone can sign up to deliver food for the Big 3, which can result in very inconsistent delivery experiences. You can promise next-level professionalism and accountability, which is vital for a ghost kitchen.

Discuss their expectations when you strike up a relationship with a ghost kitchen. Show them that you can go above and beyond by accommodating their needs and delighting your shared customers.

Be careful about ghost kitchen food prep practices.

That being said, it’s okay to be a little picky. Because ghost kitchens are a new and nontraditional business model, the laws and regulations are a little unclear. Many ghost kitchens have managed to bypass any involvement from the health department entirely. This has led to concern about foodborne illnesses and general food safety.

In other words, ensuring your ghost kitchen partners operate according to the law is worth your time. If they prepare a meal that makes someone sick, that reflects poorly on you, too. So ensure you’re comfortable with their practices and procedures, and don’t be afraid to ask for details and paperwork.

Don’t forget to read our complete guide to partnering with a ghost kitchen! That article contains tips for approaching a ghost kitchen and pitching your RDS as a potential partner.

Have you worked with a ghost kitchen? Tell us in the comments!