A ghost kitchen (also known as a delivery-only restaurant, virtual kitchen, shadow kitchen, commissary kitchen or dark kitchen) is a professional food preparation and cooking facility set up for the preparation of delivery-only meals. However, a ghost kitchen differs from a virtual restaurant in that a ghost kitchen is not necessarily a restaurant brand in itself and may contain kitchen space and facilities for more than one restaurant brand.
A ghost kitchen contains the kitchen equipment and facilities needed for the preparation of restaurant meals but has no dining area for walk-in customers. Ghost kitchens have emerged as a business model in response to the rapid growth in consumer demand for restaurant delivery meals, and the lower costs incurred by using kitchen facilities located outside of high-rent, high-foot-trafficked urban locations. Using a ghost kitchen allows established restaurants with dining-in service to expand their delivery operations without adding stress to the existing kitchen, frees up parking taken by the delivery vehicles, and allows them to enter new neighborhoods at lower cost.
An individual can set up a ghost kitchen to start their own brand, which is identified with their own online restaurant. One might choose to start up a ghost kitchen because setup costs are lower, and the time taken is shorter, than for a kitchen that also serves a walk-in restaurant. It might take only 3 or 4 weeks.
Due to the money saved by not having a dining room and not hiring waitstaff, ghost restaurants have significantly lower overhead (even taking into account the expense of operating a delivery service or the fees charged by third party delivery companies like Grubhub and Caviar) and thus higher profit margins, due to not lowering the price of their food.
Without a brick-and-mortar dining location to renovate, front-of-house staff, paper menus to reprint, and all other costs of operating a restaurant, companies can also try out new brands and cuisines with less effort and expense.