Back to all
What are host kitchens (and how are they different from ghost and cloud kitchens)?

What are host kitchens (and how are they different from ghost and cloud kitchens)?

minutes read
Published on
September 14, 2023
Last updated on
Aron Lewis
Growth & Marketing Lead
Aron Lewis
What are host kitchens (and how are they different from ghost and cloud kitchens)?
Table of contents
Jump ahead

    Host kitchen companies are one of the most popular hospitality trends of the last few years. In fact, Franklin Junction’s CEO, Rishi Nigam, says that “by 2025 greater than 50% of restaurants in this country will be selling multiple brands. By the end of the decade it’ll be 90%”. 


    Because host kitchens help commercial kitchens boost their income by allowing delivery-only food companies to use their facilities.

    But what exactly is a host kitchen? And how are they different from ghost kitchens or cloud kitchens? 

    Don’t worry - in this article, we’ll talk you through the ins and outs of host kitchens. By the end, you’ll know what a host kitchen is, how they work, and why a virtual brand could be a better option. 

    What is a restaurant host kitchen?

    A host kitchen is an operational kitchen that works with other brands and businesses to prepare and sell third-party food. On the outside, a host kitchen looks like a typical commercial food prep operation. But on the inside, two or more operations are taking place at the same time. 

    Let’s say you’re running the kitchen at a hotel restaurant. On a busy night, you’re using about 75% of your kitchen space to prepare, cook, and deliver food to dine-in customers.

    So what about the 25% that’s not being used? Surely that’s just wasted potential, right? 

    This is where a host kitchen can help

    You can bring in a delivery-only company to use the remaining 25% of your kitchen space. Before you know it, you’re making some extra income and the delivery-only company has somewhere to prepare their food. 

    A host kitchen isn’t just for hotel restaurants. It could be a café, bar, school, hospital ­– anywhere that cooks and prepares food commercially could be a host kitchen. 

    How does a host kitchen work?

    Host kitchens use existing kitchen facilities to deliver and fulfil the needs of an online food-delivery company. 

    In other words, existing kitchens provide the physical space for online menus to be prepared, packaged, and distributed.

    The key elements of a host kitchen include:

    • Kitchen space and equipment
    • Staff
    • Digital marketing and branding assets
    • Packaging and ingredients
    • Delivery partners

    The host kitchen provides the kitchen space and equipment for the external brand. 

    The external brand brings their own staff, ingredients, and packaging (the host kitchen can also provide ingredients depending on what the external brand needs). They then set-up their delivery service from the kitchen and start preparing food for delivery! 

    Brand-types for host kitchens

    There are two different types of brands available for host kitchens: internal brands and external brands.

    Let’s look at these in more detail. 

    Internal brands for host kitchens

    An internal brand involves operating your own delivery-only food from your own kitchen. If you’ve recently expanded your kitchen space, this is a great option for supplementing your variable income.

    As an example, imagine a fried-chicken restaurant launching a second menu of delivery-only wings or chicken burgers. All of this food is sold through third-party delivery platforms like UberEats, Deliveroo, or Just Eat. 

    It’s more like operating a virtual brand, which means you create the branding, marketing, packaging, and menus for your own brand. It’s separate from your dine-in business, but it runs from your kitchen. 

    Working with a franchise partner (like us at Peckwater - hit 👋) makes this process easier to manage. We take care of all the logistics so you can focus on preparing the food.

    Find out more about working with us!

    External brands for host kitchens

    An external brand is when a host kitchen rents out kitchen space to another operator.

    Imagine the same fried chicken restaurant preparing meals for an established chain or a delivery-only wing brand in addition to their own fare. The brand won’t impact your restaurant “storefront” and will operate entirely online, offering delivery-only food.

    This is a common solution for smaller pop-up and food-truck operators looking to grow their business at lower costs. 

    The benefits of operating a host kitchen

    Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of using a host kitchen: 

    • Increase revenue. One of the most important benefits of operating a host kitchen is the extra revenue you’ll generate. Just think, if you’re able to bring-in extra profits without the need to hire new workers, pay extra rent, or invest in new kitchen capacity – why wouldn’t you? Working in the industry, you’ll know that kitchen space comes at a premium. If you’ve got unused space, you could be sitting on a goldmine. 
    • Invest in your business. Extra profits and revenue means you’ll be able to reinvest in your business, staff benefits, and wages – improving morale and the quality of your food.
    • Reduce costs. In addition to the extra rental income, running a host kitchen can reduce your kitchen costs. For instance, you can use ingredients for both your dine-in restaurant and the food delivery service. This means you can buy more ingredients in bulk at a lower cost, and reduce food waste in the process.  
    • Improve sustainability. Operating a host kitchen is a sustainable model of operating. Instead of using multiple locations with various equipment, you’re reducing the carbon footprint by using a single premises and sharing tools. You’re helping the planet as well as your bottom-line.

    How are host kitchens different from ghost and cloud kitchens? 

    Although similar, host kitchens aren’t the same as ghost kitchens or cloud kitchens. Let’s take a look at the differences.

    • Ghost kitchens. Unlike a host kitchen, a ghost kitchen (sometimes called a dark kitchen) isn't part of a regular kitchen operation. It’s often called the original ‘delivery-only’ concept because they prepare their food in a kitchen that isn’t open to the public. Instead of operating from a brick-and-mortar restaurant like a host kitchen, they use a kitchen specifically for delivery-only food. 
    • Cloud kitchens. A cloud kitchen is similar to a ghost kitchen, but it franchises the concept. Simply put, it can have numerous brands operating from the same ghost kitchen! 

    How to start a host kitchen 

    Start by figuring out if a host kitchen is the right path for your business. If you have kitchen space to spare and not enough capacity in your team to utilise it, a host kitchen could be a good way to generate more revenue. 

    However, if you have the space and the capacity to create more food, launching a virtual brand might be a better option. 

    If you’re not sure whether to use a host kitchen or a virtual brand, reach out to us and we can help! If a host kitchen is the right move for your business, you should now clarify your kitchen capacity. 

    For a host kitchen to work, you need to know how much space, ingredients, and resources you have available. Spend some time reviewing these elements to determine exactly how much kitchen capacity you have to incorporate another brand.

    How much does it cost to start a host kitchen?

    The cost of transforming your business into a host kitchen is usually fairly low. It involves capitalising on an existing infrastructure, meaning it can increase restaurant revenue with low risk and low overheads. 

    The exact cost varies based on your existing operations and the type of food-delivery service your host kitchen will offer. 

    If you’re launching an internal brand, the costs may be slightly higher as you’ll invest in training, branding, and additional ingredients. 

    If you opt for an external brand, you’ll incur little costs for another company using your space to prepare and deliver their food. You might pay a higher amount for your electricity and energy usage, but these costs are likely to be recouped through the additional revenue of running the host kitchen.

    Use Peckwater Brands to launch your virtual kitchen today

    If you’re thinking about maximising your kitchen capacity and boosting your income, get in touch with the team at Peckwater. We’ll walk you through our process, discuss your existing operations, and help you launch a virtual brand that’ll appeal to your local customers. We can’t wait to hear from you! 

    Share article