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The New Language Of Virtual Restaurants

Updated: Mar 16, 2019

Do you know the difference between virtual, dark, cloud, ghost, commissary and delivery-only? Here's a quick guide.

Ghost Kitchen

The world of Virtual Restaurants represents an exciting new opportunity for restaurant owners, and those wanting to get in to the restaurant business in a less capital-intensive way. But it has its own language. So, if you don't know your ghosts from your virtuals here's a quick primer.


Virtual Restaurant - A Virtual Restaurant is a delivery-only restaurant with no place or option for customers to dine-in, and no brick and mortar physical location of its own for customers. Virtual restaurants usually take their orders online directly or through third-party delivery apps like Uber Eats and Grubhub, and deliver directly to customers, again either using their own delivery people or by using the Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates etc. Alternative terms for Virtual Restaurants are: Ghost Restaurants, Dark Restaurants, Delivery-only Restaurants and Online-only Restaurants.


It should come as no surprise that our team at Virtual Restaurant News prefer the term Virtual Restaurant.


So far, so good. Now let's make this trickier. A Virtual Restaurant can still be located inside a physical brick and mortar restaurant! What? Most Virtual Restaurants are actually still located inside an existing restaurant. The Virtual Restaurant menu is cooked in the same kitchen, or in a part of the existing restaurant's kitchen, but the Virtual Restaurant menu items are not served in the physical restaurant. They are for delivery only. So, an existing restaurant may have spare capacity, or may not be serving at certain times, or may want to experiment with menu ideas. They can set up a Virtual Restaurant inside their existing premises and run that as a separate but complementary business.


What if you don't have space or excess kitchen capacity? Enter the world of the Ghost Kitchen.


Ghost Kitchen - This is a rented space where Virtual Restaurants can prepare their menu items for delivery. You can think of this as a coworking space providing off-premise restaurant kitchens. You are renting a private commercial kitchen, usually in a dedicated facility full of private commercial kitchens. There are a number of independent operators opening ghost kitchen facilities across the country, but two companies are aiming to dominate this industry by providing commercial kitchen space nationwide, to people starting Virtual Restaurants: Cloud Kitchens and Kitchen United.


The ghost kitchen will usually be a self-contained space fitted out with adequate power and sinks for food prep and usually a commercial exhaust hood. You will then decide on what additional equipment needs to be installed. Since the operators of these Ghost Kitchens are delivering food, most facilities have a dedicated area for food delivery drivers to pick up. Alternative terms for Ghost Kitchens are: Dark Kitchens, Cloud Kitchens, Virtual Kitchens, and Delivery-only Kitchens.


There is one more term to cover.


Commissary Kitchen - Commissary kitchens are established commercial kitchens where foodservice providers can go to prepare and store their food. Some commissary kitchens cater specifically to food trucks and mobile food businesses, but others may be businesses that just rent out their kitchen space for some extra income. So, a commissary kitchen tends to be more of a food preparation space for an existing restaurant or food manufacturer or food truck operator. The food is not delivered directly to the consumer, but to another business.


Now you know! Be sure to check back here daily, for all the latest Virtual Restaurant and Ghost Kitchen developments.


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