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I see Ghost Kitchens

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Ok, corny headline, but do you see ghost kitchens continuing to work or not?

In the fight to maintain some resemblance of normal and to keep the cogs moving during the coronavirus pandemic operators turned their typical venues into delivery and takeout focused spaces that mirrored a ghost kitchen, clubs, pubs and restaurants entered the world of uber service delivery.
Operators were forced to consider new menus, preparation and opening times and menu pricing, delivery radius and appropriate apps. While we see the dine-in option becoming more accessible, have we passed the tipping point that see the ghost kitchen flirtation a staple offering by operators post COVID-19. Will it be a plausible diversification strategy?

John Dickson the Chairman of DWS Hospitality Specialists and Club hospitality hall of famer, has been an advocate of the ghost kitchen after seeming the success achieved by Mark Condi at Bankstown’s Sports Club. So how do you figure out if a ghost kitchen will work for your venue, and whether post COVID-19 will see continuing demand?

A ghost kitchen is kitchen preparing food that lacks a physical store front or dining room. The definition is a little blurry now, however, with many food outlets previously trading as restaurants now selling pickup and delivery only. My local Thai restaurant was overwhelmed by the demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. With revenue up on pre-COVID-19 results for most nights and with only kitchen wage costs to consider, the bottom line never looked so good.

Evidently a ghost kitchen is an enticing operation model because of the lower input and operation costs. Removing the customer service element and maintaining the dining room significantly reduces costs. The above idea may work for your local Thai restaurant but is it a workable model for established clubs and pubs. Some thought must be had to design and implementation of a curbside pickup and delivery experience to minimise disrupting customers. The risk of poor implementation is slow service that results in cold food, incorrect orders or late deliveries, one misstep could send customers looking for other options.

The long-term success of this option rests with knowing what your customers really want. What do customers value more: the meal itself or the in-person dining experience?” It is essential to identify what your customers value about your business and make decisions from there. The lockdown may have allowed you to prove the ghost kitchen business case. If you continue to be hounded for delivery orders, this could be a good opportunity to downsize and focus on perfecting the delivery process for a better customer experience, less costs and increased loyalty in the process.

Seeking feedback from customers is imperative, there is a lot of room to either get it right or wrong. Customers (and employees) will guide you and let you know how you are executing.

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