Simple But Powerful Ideas to Launch and Run a Virtual Restaurant Successfully
Ever since the world was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and began to embrace the modes of the new normal, the ‘go virtual’ mode has become inevitable in almost all businesses. The restaurant industry is no exception.
Most of the world’s restaurants and dining outlets had to find refuge in the virtual business domain to save themselves from suffering losses or even complete shutdown. In order to keep operations intact during curfews, people mobility restrictions and strict health and safety guidelines, restaurants found their savior in the virtual world where business could still be run and profits sustained.
A virtual restaurant or website belongs to the restaurant - 100%. It saves the restaurant a lot of money as compared to using a hosted, third party restaurant ordering system like Grubhub, DoorDash or UberEats.
WHAT IS A VIRTUAL RESTAURANT?
Before we begin to explore the steps for launching and running a virtual restaurant, let us first understand what a virtual restaurant is.
A virtual restaurant is also known as a ghost kitchen, ghost restaurant or cloud kitchen. It is a restaurant where the services are facilitated via web or mobile apps and third party food delivery apps.
This business model and concept, now extremely popular in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, enables restaurateurs to minimize several costs that are usually incurred while offering a dine-in service.
VIRTUAL RESTAURANT - HOW DOES IT WORK?
- Customers visit the restaurant website
- They view the menu and place orders online
- The kitchen of the virtual restaurant is notified about the order
- Kitchen staff starts preparing the food
- Restaurant directly delivers the food to the customer or uses a third-party food delivery service to execute the delivery and complete the order
- Restaurants offer both online payment possibilities and Cash On Delivery
- Customers enjoy the food within the comfort of their home
ADVANTAGES OF VIRTUAL RESTAURANTS
Cost mitigation - This is especially helpful for start-ups. It will help them cut out on expenses of providing an ample restaurant space with attractive dine-in features. They can instead use that budget to create better food preparation processes inside the kitchen.
Shared kitchen set-up - More than one restaurant can make use of the kitchen set-up.
Menu Management - Menus can be altered quickly by restaurant owners depending on the availability of ingredients. Removing unpopular dishes from the menu can also be done with a few clicks. Thus, experimenting with the menu is possible at all times.
Food delivered at home - Several studies indicate that customers favor food delivered at their doorstep so that food is enjoyed by them inside the cosy comfort of their home. This trend has increased after the global pandemic crisis.
LAUNCHING THE RESTAURANT’S FIRST VIRTUAL BRAND
Creating a virtual brand for a restaurant is amazingly simple. Just follow a few simple steps and get ready for the orders that are going to flood your virtual restaurant.
Core Concept - A restaurant must first decide whether there will be any striking difference in the brand image already created for the brick and mortar restaurant and the image that is to be created through the virtual realm.
A restaurateur must also be able to judge if all the items on the menu are suitable for packing and consumption at home. Will there be just one single platform or many avenues for diners to place orders is also a thoughtful decision to be made.
Delivery Oriented Operations - Deeply analyze the current operations and the passage of food from the kitchen to the diner. Identify what needs to be done to shift the focus greater on door delivery of food. Take into account the kitchen’s inventory, staff work timing and raw materials supply. Make suitable arrangements inside the kitchen making it ideal for order packing and pick up. So, the second step is all about reworking on operational flow and prioritizing delivery orders like never before.
Market research - Having decided on the setup needed for the virtual restaurant, it is now time to indulge in market research to find out about popular cuisines, your own signature dishes, how your virtual restaurant can address issues so far unnoticed by competitors or target untapped demographics. These insights can then be applied to the core idea and operational abilities to develop a concrete plan for the virtual restaurant.
Brand Building - While you can bid adieu to printed marketing products, your digital properties should compensate and communicate effectively in all possible ways. An optimized and meaningful website created by the best website builder like www.restaurantify.com, an attractive logo, easy to navigate mobile apps are all tools that can help you create an impact on your virtual business. The visual brand must reflect the core values of the restaurant, make them understand its unique features and the way to place a food order.
Third-Party Delivery Platforms - Before joining hands with any third-party delivery platform, it is important to do careful research on the number of platforms available and how their pricing model will impact your overall profits and growth.
Despite charging exorbitant commission fees, some delivery platforms are worth using purely because of the increased popularity and visibility. Certain delivery platforms focus more on aiding local restaurants by offering commission-free listings with low up-front costs. However, they might not reach the desired number of customers. Choose an ideal delivery platform that can help you realize the needs and goals of your business.
TAKE OFF - It is now time to launch the virtual restaurant. Get your restaurant listed on third-party food delivery platforms, ensure the restaurant website is live and functions smoothly. Complement these activities with some noise on the social media so that your efforts get noticed and rewarded.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
Analyze Customer Experience: Any business must be founded on the ideals of what the customer wants or wishes to experience. More so in the restaurant industry. Direct every effort in creating a virtual restaurant towards creating the experience that a customer will always cherish. Understanding what they expect will ensure that no effort in creating and running a virtual restaurant goes futile.
Create an effective custom training program: Before the virtual restaurant is live and functional, it is imperative that the staff of the restaurant are trained to handle orders effectively. While there can be no miscommunication in taking orders, it is essential that special instructions from customers are also incorporated while preparing the food, it is packaged carefully and reaches the customers intact. Design a training program to get the staff accustomed to what must be executed.
Share Epic Content and Track Measure Progress: Share content through the restaurant website and social media platforms on a consistent basis. Ensure that the content is precise, brief, engaging and leads to some action on the part of the diner.
Handle mistakes and complaints effectively: Be responsive to every feedback and comment - whether it is positive or negative. This could give your virtual environment a human touch. Feel proud when appreciated and work harder to retain that name. Feel responsible when you make mistakes or receive complaints. Respond with maturity to every customer and see how they begin to use your virtual world more frequently and with greater involvement.
Knowing Menu Costing Basics: Know the cost that you incur for every single menu item so that you are sure about how much additional costs will be incurred by adding an item to the menu or how much cost cutting can be done by removing certain items from the menu.
Create an online competitive advantage in your local market: Winning the local market is the first step towards winning every customer possible. Win over the competitors in every way possible - keep a close watch on their virtual activities, the strategies that they use to pull crowds, the discounts they offer and food they reinvent. Also infuse your dose of creativity into what is already being done and watch the way things unfold in your favour.