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The spread of the ghost kitchen in Tamil Nadu has transformed the dining experience from eating in restaurants to  enjoying cuisines delivered through food aggregators by delivery modes (i.e. outside a restaurant). This has changed eating habits in cities including in Chennai and Coimbatore.

The ghost kitchen in Tamil Nadu became the hot new restaurant industry trend in 2019. For traditional table service restaurants, this was a massive disruption that left a multitude of questions.

In Chennai, cloud kitchens and ghost kitchens are the new horizon of the growing urban food business changing the way India thinks of food. Kovai Foodies, an online forum that tracks food trends across the globe, says: “Though cloud kitchens have been around, large and small players like homemakers see a booming business opportunity now.”

Ghost kitchens are essentially restaurants without the dining space. Their focus is to sell and fulfill online food orders for delivery using third-party apps like Swiggy, Zomato or with their own delivery operation

Ghost kitchens (also sometimes called cloud kitchens, dark kitchens, or virtual kitchens) are available only online but don’t operate out of an existing restaurant. They often have no brick-and-mortar counterpart at all. Instead, they run out of a space rented from a third party. They do not include a storefront or indoor seating for customers.

A ghost kitchen in Tamil Nadu differs from a virtual restaurant in that a ghost kitchen is not a restaurant brand in itself and may contain kitchen space and facilities for more than one restaurant brand. Furthermore, a ghost kitchen has a centralized kitchen but exists virtually over the region to reach a larger range of customers and primarily handles digital orders.

So, with a few taps on your phone, you can enjoy restaurant-quality food in the comfort of your home at relatively lower prices simply because operators of the ghost kitchen in Tamil Nadu do not have to bear the cost of infrastructure and services offered by brick-and-mortar restaurants — a rather enticing proposition in the age of ‘Netflix and chill’.  “Restaurant expansion via cloud kitchens simplifies things by removing big barriers like setting up dine-in facilities at prime locations, hiring and retaining staff, customer acquisition, market fit, etc,” says Vishal Bhatia, CEO, New Supply, Swiggy, one of the leading food aggregators in the country.

Ghost kitchens (also sometimes called cloud kitchens, dark kitchens, or virtual kitchens) are available only online but don’t operate out of an existing restaurant. They often have no brick-and-mortar counterpart at all. Instead, they run out of a space rented from a third party. They do not include a storefront or indoor seating for customers

With restrictions in dining, the cloud kitchen peaked during the pandemic. People here are game to try Thai, Chinese, sushi, Turkish chicken kebabs, falafel wraps, and African jollof rice, manchow soup, lippen chicken, chilli garlic rice, Thai basil noodles, sea food platter or anything new. “Most of these ghost kitchens have never done a South Indian menu and every week their experimental food is a sell out,” says Bhatia.

For the last few years, the food-tech-driven cloud kitchen scene in India has been buzzing. It is one of the fastest-growing segments in the F&B industry today. This is only the beginning.  .

The different types of ghost kitchens are categorised as:

  • Commissary kitchens. Let’s say you’re a food truck owner with multiple food trucks
  • Incubator kitchens
  • Kitchen pods
  • Cloud Kitchens

Benefits of a ghost Kitchen

  • Faster launch: With no extensive renovations to worry about and most of the kitchen setup done for you, you can launch a new restaurant brand in weeks, not months.
  • Lower overhead: You don’t need to support front-of-house staff or worry about renovating a space and obtaining permits. People who want to own a restaurant don’t always have the money to spend on an expensive building in a great location.
  • Location: Foot traffic and visibility are key factors that determine the success of a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Those aren’t concerns for opening a ghost kitchen. Instead, you can select a location in a high-volume delivery area to maximize sale

With the rise in ghost kitchens and the increase in consumers browsing for food online, being visible across the top delivery apps is becoming a necessity to beat out the competition. Online food ordering traffic has grown 300% faster than traditional dining in the past few years, and it’s only going up from there. As more delivery-only options become available, restaurateurs are shifting to a less risky alternative that will bring stability back to their business.

With a ghost kitchen in Tamil Nadu, it only takes 6 months with 10% profit on a 10 lakh monthly run rate to break even.

Takeaway has become the vital source of revenue for many of the restaurants, owners of cloud kitchens point out that setting up such kitchens has proved to be beneficial as a lot of people have been looking for good quality, healthy and home-cooked meals during the pandemic.

With convenience and easy access to a large variety of restaurants online, there’s no question that ghost kitchens are the future. We’re seeing the ghost kitchens trend spark across the globe. Now you can rent a kitchen in most cities, which means the sky’s the limit for your restaurant business. Since the ghost kitchen business model is a low risk model, it’s also a good way to test your concept in a different market before building out a brick-and-mortar operation. You’re also able to reach more customers online without the need for a physical storefront. As you shift more of your business online, there’s more flexibility to pivot and expand to new markets.

Although many people are relying on online delivery platforms such as Swiggy and Zomato, however, it cannot replace the dine-in experience of eating out with families and friends.

While takeaway has become the vital source of revenue for many of the restaurants, owners of cloud kitchens point out that setting up such kitchens has proved to be beneficial as a lot of people have been looking for good quality, healthy and home-cooked meals during the pandemic.

GRT Cloud Kitchens, Kitchen fit kitchen, Roos Food concepts offer a different way to order food online. They help to bring you the most decadent 5-star meals to cater to your needs. All their meals are prepared in hygienic kitchens.

For Maria Priyanka Ravindran, the founder of  Anna Nagar-based cloud kitchen Healthy Chef, customisation is what drives her business. At her home kitchen, she prepares customised keto and low-carb lunch and dinner bowls.

Good kitchen fundamentals remain in any model
What is very likely is that we start to see more hybrid models evolve. A full-service restaurant might opt to partner with a ghost kitchen to supplement their newly developed take-out business, while other brands could choose to boost profits by offering their kitchens as ghost kitchens for other brands. Some may look to ghost kitchens to expand into new territories.

Because whether you are a ghost or a traditional kitchen, the fundamentals of good management remain. The technology that employs artificial intelligence, deep analytics, and open integration to other solutions, will enable restaurateurs to streamline inventory and menu management: It is essential to effectively manage cost and control inventory waste, to ensure the sales you capture have a healthy bottom-line.

While nobody knows exactly what the future holds for the restaurant industry, the road ahead likely will not be an easy one. To meet the challenges that restaurants face, both from a business and customer standpoint, there is no doubt they will continue to explore all options to keep delivering great food to the customers they love. Ghost kitchens can help meet that goal by providing an invaluable channel for expansion and to help new restaurants get off the ground with lower risk.


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