Ghost kitchens started before the Covid pandemic, but exploded once everything was shut down during the pandemic with an increase in online orders. Ghost kitchens still play an important part in many countries like South Africa, albeit not the same growth rate.
According to EatOut, In 2019, restaurants contributed approximately R7 billion monthly to the South African economy, employing over 500,000 people.
What is a Ghost Kitchen?
A ghost kitchen, also known as a virtual kitchen, cloud kitchen, or dark kitchen, is a food establishment that operates solely for the purpose of food delivery or takeout. Unlike traditional restaurants, ghost kitchens don’t have a physical dining area or storefront, and customers can only order their food through online platforms or mobile apps.
Ghost kitchens can be run by a single restaurant or multiple restaurants, and they often share the same kitchen space and equipment. This allows for more efficient use of resources and lower overhead costs, as the restaurant owners don’t have to invest in a physical storefront or dining area.
The rise of ghost kitchens has been driven by the increasing demand for food delivery and the growth of online ordering platforms. They offer a convenient and cost-effective way for restaurants to expand their reach and customer base without the need for additional physical locations. They also allow for more flexibility in menu offerings, as restaurants can test new concepts or dishes without the risk of investing in a new storefront.
How to Start a Dark Kitchen in South Africa
Starting a dark kitchen in South Africa can be a great way to enter the food industry without the high overhead costs of a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant. Here are some steps to consider when starting a dark kitchen in South Africa:
- Research the market: Before you start a dark kitchen, it’s important to research the market to understand the demand for your cuisine in your chosen area. Consider factors such as competition, demographics, and delivery options.
- Choose a location: Dark kitchens don’t require a traditional storefront, but you’ll need a commercial kitchen space that’s suitable for your needs. Look for a space that’s affordable, has adequate space, and meets health and safety regulations.
- Get the necessary licenses and permits: You’ll need to obtain the necessary licenses and permits to operate a food establishment in South Africa. These may include a food safety certificate, a business license, and a fire safety certificate.
- Set up your kitchen: You’ll need to set up your kitchen with the necessary equipment and supplies to prepare your menu items. Consider purchasing second-hand equipment to save costs.
- Create your menu: Develop a menu that’s suitable for delivery and takeout, and that meets the demands of your target market. Consider offering a range of options, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.
- Partner with delivery platforms: To reach customers, you’ll need to partner with delivery platforms such as Uber Eats, Mr D Food, and OrderIn. These platforms will take a commission on each order, so be sure to factor this into your pricing.
- Promote your dark kitchen: Use social media and other digital marketing channels to promote your dark kitchen and attract customers. Offer promotions and discounts to incentivize customers to try your food.
Starting a dark kitchen can be a challenging but rewarding venture in South Africa’s food industry. With the right planning and execution, you can create a successful business that meets the demands of the growing delivery and takeout market.
KPIs for a Ghost Kitchen
When running a ghost kitchen, it’s important to measure the success of your business by tracking key performance indicators (KPIs). Here are some KPIs to consider when running a ghost kitchen:
- Order Volume: The number of orders your ghost kitchen receives is a key indicator of success. Tracking order volume will help you to understand customer demand and to plan staffing and inventory accordingly.
- Average Order Value: Average order value is the average amount spent by each customer on their order. By tracking this metric, you can identify opportunities to increase revenue by encouraging customers to add items to their order or offering promotions to increase the value of each order.
- Order Accuracy: Order accuracy is the percentage of orders that are prepared correctly and delivered on time. Improving order accuracy can help to increase customer satisfaction and reduce the cost of remakes and refunds.
- Customer Satisfaction: Customer satisfaction is a key indicator of success for any food business. Measuring customer satisfaction through surveys or review platforms can help you to identify areas for improvement and to maintain a high level of quality and service.
- Food Cost Percentage: Food cost percentage is the percentage of revenue that is spent on ingredients and supplies. By tracking this metric, you can identify opportunities to reduce costs without compromising on quality.
- Labour Cost Percentage: Labour cost percentage is the percentage of revenue that is spent on staffing. By tracking this metric, you can identify opportunities to optimize your staffing levels and to reduce labour costs.
- Sales by Menu Item: Tracking sales by menu item can help you to understand which items are most popular and which items are not selling as well. This information can help you to adjust your menu and pricing to better meet customer demand.
By tracking these KPIs, you can make data-driven decisions that will help you to optimize your ghost kitchen operations and to drive growth and profitability.
Below are some of the some of the top ghost kitchens that have been operating in South Africa in the past. Here are some of them:
- Afro’s Chicken: Afro’s Chicken is a popular South African ghost kitchen chain that offers grilled chicken burgers, wraps, and fries.
- The Black Tongue: The Black Tongue is a Johannesburg-based ghost kitchen that specializes in Afro-Asian fusion cuisine. Some of their popular dishes include bao buns, noodles, and rice bowls.
- The Secret Kitchen: The Secret Kitchen is a Cape Town-based ghost kitchen that offers a range of healthy meal options. Their menu includes salads, wraps, and bowls.
- Burger Bistro: Burger Bistro is a ghost kitchen chain that offers a range of gourmet burgers and sides. They have outlets in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Durban.
- The Fry Society: The Fry Society is a popular ghost kitchen chain that specializes in gourmet fries. They have outlets in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban.
- Sliders: Sliders is a Johannesburg-based ghost kitchen that offers a range of sliders and sides. Their menu includes vegetarian and vegan options as well.
- Japachino: Japachino is a Cape Town-based ghost kitchen that offers a range of Japanese-inspired dishes, including sushi, ramen, and bao buns.
- The Wing Republic: The Wing Republic is a Johannesburg-based ghost kitchen that specializes in chicken wings. They offer a range of flavors, including peri-peri, BBQ, and buffalo.
- The Fat Zebra: The Fat Zebra is a Cape Town-based ghost kitchen that offers a range of healthy meal options. Their menu includes salads, wraps, and bowls.
- Crave Kitchen: Crave Kitchen is a Johannesburg-based ghost kitchen that offers a range of gourmet burgers, hot dogs, and sides.
Overall, ghost kitchens are an innovative solution to the changing landscape of the food industry, and they are expected to continue to grow in popularity in the coming years.