US Food Holding Corp., a leading food service distributor, is launching a program designed to help restaurants operate "ghost kitchens" as a way to grow revenue amid the uncertainty of the pandemic.
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US Foods' Ghost Kitchen project aims to educate restaurateurs about emerging options like virtual kitchens, where traditional brick-and-mortar is replaced by a professional kitchen offering take out or delivery options only.
With COVID-19 sharply reducing in-restaurant dining, many independent restaurants and chains are testing ghost restaurant concepts as a creative solution, especially as take out/delivery becomes a primary revenue source.
With colder weather on the horizon, curtailing outdoor dining, many restaurants will be searching for alternatives to help them stay afloat.
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“In many parts of the country, for the next number of weeks and probably months, outdoor dining is going to diminish,” Jim Osborne, US Foods senior vice president of customer strategy and innovation, told FOX Business. “We are making sure that restaurants are ready when that happens to continue to drive takeout, delivery, meal kits, family meals, merchandise -- and any of those things that can help them be creative in keeping their revenue up."
According to Osborne, the program emerged as a response to growing interest among customers, and the pandemic accelerated that interest.
About 75% of restaurant operators now consider off-premise dining to be their best growth opportunity, according to the National Restaurant Association.
The idea also came to fruition as a result of data that reveals future profitability, which is set to transcend the pandemic when dine-in restrictions are lifted. EuroMonitor estimates that ghost kitchens and off-premise dining are projected to become a $1 trillion global market by 2030.
“Six months ago many people were saying that this was just a trend,” Osborne said. “Now we are seeing those trends become reality. Now we have something that we can take to our customers that enables them to capitalize on these revenue streams in a fairly simplistic manner for their business.”
The US Foods Ghost Kitchen playbook leverages industry expertise from the Restaurant Operation Consultant (ROC) and Food Fantastic Chefs to consult customers on basic operation strategies, like how to pivot the menu, comprehend profit and loss, drive digital presence and social media, and more.
A variety of tools also help restaurant owners understand and establish their brand, including a radius report that dissects the competitive landscape as well as a cross-utilization resource that filters which products and ingredients are needed for their kitchen.
The consulting extends to help restaurants target what works and what doesn’t in order to strike a balance between bringing a brand to life and generating traffic while also ensuring a profitable venture.
“If you are going to try to open a taco concept ghost kitchen and across the street from you is an amazing taco restaurant, you are probably not going to have as much success as if you are finding a niche in your market in terms of what’s available and what’s offered,” Osborne said.
“There’s lots of diner fatigue out there where you’ve been going to the same restaurant for 6 months. If you are able to find something that is new to that market and is conducive to off-premise or it travels well, it can be very. successful.”