In 2019, ghost kitchens (also referred to as dark kitchens and virtual kitchens) were simply an emerging trend to watch out for. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of these delivery-only kitchens in a big way. Just 15% of restaurant operators were using ghost kitchens before the pandemic, by May that number had risen to 51% (Technomic, 2020). The demand for off-premise dining options skyrocketed, creating an opportunity for operators to invest in ghost kitchens and even virtual brands.
Virtual brands emerge when restaurants reposition themselves by focusing on a different market within their existing kitchens. This has given many restaurants the opportunity to compete with industry leaders and capitalize on the profitability of fried chicken programs. For example, brands like Chili’s, Maggiano’s, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Applebee’s have recently launched virtual fried chicken concepts.
As it turns out, consumers don’t actually need restaurants to have a physical location to be tempted to order from them. In fact, 63% of overall consumers said they would be somewhat to extremely likely to order from a restaurant that is available on a third-party delivery platform (DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, etc.) but has no physical location to visit (Technomic, 2020). That 63% increases to 73% when considering the 18 to 34-year-old segment alone. With numbers like that, it’s easy to understand why ghost kitchens have risen in popularity at such a fast pace.
The average ghost kitchen is only a few hundred square feet, meaning available space must be optimized and designed to operate with minimum labor. Partnerships with third-party delivery platforms drive traffic but shrink profit margins, forcing operators to look for cost-cutting solutions within these small kitchens. Luckily, the right equipment can help with each of these factors while also making life easier for both operators and their staff. Here are our top 4 best solutions for ghost kitchens:
Best Combi for Ghost Kitchens: Space$aver Team Combi
The Space$aver Team Combi offers maximum cooking flexibility with the highest efficiency in the most limited kitchen spaces. Grills, convection ovens, and steamers – three individually purchased pieces of equipment – can be replaced with a Space$aver Team Combi. An integrated hood saves dedicated ventilation space for frying and other cooking equipment. The control panel consists of an individual, touch screen control system for each oven. Chef’s Touch technology works like a smart phone – just tap the app for everything from cook-and-hold to cleaning and troubleshooting. Click here to learn more about the Space$aver Team.
Best Holding Cabinet for Ghost Kitchens: SmartHold Humidified Holding Cabinet
Our SmartHold Holding Cabinet is just over two feet wide and can be configured half-sized to fit under a countertop or stacked to manage cooking in large batches. Precise humidity control sets SmartHold apart by creating the ideal holding environment for any food and keeping it fresh for hours instead of minutes. This holding cabinet also has proofing capabilities, saving operators the expense and floorspace of a separate proofing cabinet. With SmartHold, ghost kitchens can also keep labor down by cooking and holding products before peak periods of high demand. We’ve got a couple of blog suggestions for anyone wanting more on SmartHold – learn more about optimal SmartHold settings for common menu items or discover more on how SmartHold brings value to any kitchen.
Best Open Fryer for Ghost Kitchens: Single-well Evolution Elite
Less is more with our single-well Evolution Elite, making it the ideal open fryer for any ghost kitchen. A smaller vat that requires 40% less oil means more ROI in the form of oil savings while maintaining the same throughput as a traditional 50 lb vat. Employees won’t need to spend too much time taking care of the Evolution Elite – top-off-level sensors monitor the oil level and add fresh oil as needed, and Smart Touch Filtration alerts automatically with just one button-push required to activate a 4-minute filter cycle. Models with two or more wells can filter one vat while cooking in another. Use a single-well fryer to prepare for the rush by pairing with SmartHold to cook in batches and hold for hours. Click here to learn more about the Evolution Elite open fryer.
Best Pressure Fryer for Ghost Kitchens: Velocity Pressure Fryer
Our Velocity Pressure Fryer was made to sustain the highest-volume bone-in chicken programs, making it easy for wing-concept ghost kitchens to sacrifice two feet of wall space for extreme productivity. Our Velocity series cooks 8-heads of chicken with 25% less oil than other high-volume fryers and provides up to four times longer oil life. Batch cooking is a breeze when you combine a Velocity with any of our holding cabinets – Henny Penny sheet pans can be secured by a lip on top of the fryer. Two half racks are then placed on each sheet pan and slid into the holding cabinet, allowing workers to skip re-racking and reducing product handling. While product is being transferred to hold, Velocity filters automatically between every single load. Learn more about the Velocity series here.
While these products are our top 4 recommendations for ghost kitchens based on industry insight, we realize every operation is unique. No matter the specific product, all of our equipment comes with the best customer service for demanding kitchens. At Henny Penny, we know life is better with reliable, cost-saving equipment and comprehensive support. We offer an online technical resource center along with a 24/7/365 technical support hotline that saves our partners over $1 million annually in service call avoidance alone. If you’d like to talk with a representative, we have an exclusive network of distributor partners ready to answer your questions and find the best solution for you – click here to access our distributor locator tool.