Just under a year before the COVID-19 crisis, the phrase “cloud kitchen” was but a whisper on the lips of new food entrepreneurs trying to carve out a new branch of the restaurant industry. This faceless restaurant model that had made some headway in Europe had just made it to the States in the spring of 2019 and while the idea had seemed promising, no one could have predicted that this new venture could be the saving grace of struggling restaurants across the country. A cloud kitchen, by definition, is a food establishment that eliminates the front of house expenses by operating without a dining room and catering to carry out and delivery orders exclusively. This allows the restaurant to operate efficiently and frugally while keeping costs low — a notoriously large hurdle for anyone looking to succeed in the restaurant industry. So if you’re interested in exploring your options in the world of faceless kitchens, you may find the transition easier than you think.
Close the Dining Room
While you may initially think that the idea of creating a cloud kitchen might be a bit daunting, you might be relieved to know that it may look similar to how you’ve become accustomed to operating over the last several months as due to the forced closure of restaurant dining rooms nationwide. The main component that makes a cloud kitchen, well, a cloud kitchen is it’s lack of dining room. As you well know, due to COVID-19, step one to creating your own faceless restaurant has been checked off the list for at least 3 months. Keeping the dining area closed allows your restaurant to operate without the front of house costs and corresponding staff. Income streams are centered around delivery and carry out orders only.
Explore Delivery Channels
While carry-out is a tried and true option that several patrons still enjoy despite the new parameters set to keep everyone safe and healthy amidst COVID-19, delivery options come in all shapes and sizes at this point in the industry. The development of third-party apps have presented to opportunity for restaurants to gain exposure to local customers through their matching algorithm that exists within their platform, but this exposure often comes at a cost. So while we mention it as an option, we do encourage that you tread lightly and very literally count the costs. Third party apps are under heavy scrutiny due to the expectations they place on restaurants in regards to commissions and even the costs at which they list their menu items. And while this is a very significant hurdle, if affiliation with a third party app would solve the need for exposure to your establishment, especially as you transition to a new model, it might be an ideal option in small doses. However, with the front of the house closed, it might create an opportunity for the addition of personal delivery on behalf of your restaurant, which will allow you to save on expensive fees from third parties.
While going faceless is a frugal way to operate your food establishment, it may potentially decrease your physical presence in your community. For this reason, it is important that you create a robust presence through your social media channels. If you own a small business, you have a unique opportunity to use your long-standing relationships within your neighborhood to expand your online efforts. Because small food establishments tend to be pillars of the local neighborhood, there is a tremendous amount of rapport that coincides with this caliber of culinary legacy. Replicate the same experience that one would receive in your dining room in your social media efforts. Create challenges for children to complete for a discount, offer two-for-one Tuesdays and other promotions that your patrons have grown accustomed to.
Money saved through the lack of dining room can be reallocated to increase the restaurant’s exposure and help with the overall growth of the business. Creating connections can also come in the form of gathering data. Utilizing technology to understand the ordering habits and online behavior of a user visiting your website during a potential purchase can give a world of insight as to why certain menu items are faring better than others or where you may be missing out on a customer who decides not to complete their purchase.
Platforms like MealBuilder that hook into your online menu via an intuitive API gives you an upper hand in the business of creating your cloud kitchen because it allows your online ordering flow to be directed by actual data analytics collected from your live customers. This can save additional funds in the name of frugality in restaurant business operation.
Take the Leap
Whether you’re flourishing or falling upon hard times, the cloud kitchen model can assist in streamlining efforts to increase overall profits by saving on overhead costs. While dining room closure has become the status quo due to COVID-19, take the opportunity to experiment with this new model. You might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
Curious about intuitive technology like MealBuilder? Want to learn more about how to gather data to make efficient decisions about your menu and other points of operations through analytics? Contact us today!