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Over the last few years, virtual brands have emerged as one of the restaurant industry’s largest growth opportunities. Unlike traditional restaurant brands and concepts, virtual brands exist as digital-first delivery-only restaurant concepts that leverage delivery platforms, like Grubhub, to reach hungry diners.

Developing a virtual brand is a great way to capture the growing delivery industry. Restaurateurs, chefs, and entrepreneurs typically will launch their virtual brands either through a ghost kitchen or as a virtual restaurant that operates in tandem with their brick-and-mortar concept.

How we talk about virtual brands and delivery-only restaurant concepts can be a bit confusing. The restaurant industry uses terms like ghost kitchen, cloud kitchen, dark kitchen, and virtual restaurants when talking about delivery-only restaurant concepts, and all these different terms can make it difficult to understand which model is best for launching your virtual brand.

In this article, you’ll learn the differences between ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants so that you can decide which model will work best for launching your virtual brand.

  • What is a ghost kitchen?
  • What are the benefits of a ghost kitchen?
  • What is the difference between a ghost kitchen and a virtual restaurant?
  • Ghost kitchen or virtual restaurant: which path is best for launching your virtual brand?

What is a ghost kitchen?

A Ghost Kitchen is a professional cooking facility that exists for chefs and restaurant operators to launch a delivery-only virtual brand. Think of ghost kitchens as a co-working space for food or a restaurant without a storefront.

Ghost kitchens provide restaurant operators the necessary equipment and space to prepare their meals at a much lower cost than opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant location. To reach customers from their ghost kitchen location, virtual brands will partner with companies like Grubhub to reach hungry diners and market their virtual brands.

What are the benefits of a Ghost Kitchen?

Ghost kitchens are an excellent way for chefs and entrepreneurs who do not have access to a brick-and-mortar kitchen to launch their virtual brand. Additionally, established independent restaurants and restaurant chains use ghost kitchens to reach more customers in different locations without building out a new brick-and-mortar restaurant location.

With ghost kitchens, these virtual brands can grow and experience the following benefits:

Lower start-up costs compared to a brick and mortar restaurant

When you join a ghost kitchen, you get access to a professional kitchen and cooking facility without the high cost of opening a new brick-and-mortar restaurant. Additionally, ghost kitchens operate as delivery-only concepts and require much less staffing and a dine-in restaurant.


You can adapt with quickly changing consumer trends, test new cuisine types, and experiment with your menu through a ghost kitchen setup.  Since ghost kitchens typically have a lower start-up cost than a traditional brick and mortar restaurant, your virtual brand can remain agile enough to evolve with emerging food trends.

Tap into growing delivery demand

Revenue in the online food delivery industry is expected to reach $28 million in the US in 2021, according to Statista. Ghost kitchens make it much easier to capture this growing market by tapping into delivery platforms, like Grubhub.

What is the difference between a ghost kitchen and a virtual restaurant?

A virtual restaurant is a delivery-only restaurant concept that operates within a brick and mortar restaurant and can offer an additional revenue stream to the primary restaurant’s business model without increasing overhead costs such as staff and rent.

Unlike a ghost kitchen, virtual restaurants operate in tandem with the brick and mortar restaurants. They have their own established brick and mortar locations and use their existing kitchens to create additional delivery-exclusive menus through their virtual restaurant concepts.

Virtual Restaurants are a great way to generate revenue and acquire new diners by offering a virtual delivery-only concept right from your existing kitchen. When launching your virtual restaurant, Grubhub can help you identify opportunities in your area and provide you a full suite of marketing tools to promote your restaurant on the app.

Ghost kitchen or virtual restaurant: which path is best for launching your virtual brand?

A ghost kitchen may be the best path for launching your virtual brand if you do not have access to a brick-and-mortar restaurant kitchen. Additionally, independent restaurants and chain restaurants are leveraging ghost kitchens to offer their menu as delivery-only in a different location than their brick-and-mortar restaurant.

If you already have an existing kitchen and you are looking to start a virtual brand as a way to add an additional revenue stream to your primary business, a virtual restaurant would be the best path for you. Through a virtual restaurant, you can leverage your staff, ingredients, and kitchen to capture new customers, test out a new concept or idea, or fill in a slower part of your day.

Innovative restauranteurs are leveraging virtual restaurants to grow their revenue, reach new customers, and supplement their core business model. Ric Gruber, Owner of Billy Brick’s Wood Fired Pizza, has created eight virtual restaurant brands. He has added an additional $1,000 per concept to his core business each month through these brands.

Some restauranteurs have also partnered with third-party partners, like Grubhub, for branded virtual restaurants that offer turn-key restaurant concepts. Through this model, the third-party partner handles the menu, branding, packaging, and marketing, while the independent restaurateur manages cooking the food and fulfills the orders with their existing kitchen and staff.

Reach new customers with your virtual brand

Virtual restaurants and ghost kitchens are here to stay, and finding a way to capture this opportunity for your business can help you reach new customers and grow your revenue without adding additional overhead costs.

However you choose to launch your virtual brand, Grubhub is here to help.  Click here to try Grubhub for free for 30 days.

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