It’s no secret that the UK’s hospitality sector suffered greatly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. National lockdowns, teamed with social distancing measures, prevented bars, restaurants, pubs, and cafes from operating normally.
Our recent survey about the future of franchising in post-pandemic Britain also found that over 62% of hospitality businesses have seen a decline in demand since the beginning of the pandemic.
This is where virtual brands can provide a vital lifeline.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to start a virtual restaurant - including why using a delivery franchise partner like Peckwater Brands can make the process easier.
How to start a virtual kitchen
First, let’s clarify what a virtual kitchen actually is.
A virtual kitchen (also known as a virtual brand) is a food delivery business that exists solely on third-party delivery platforms. They allow kitchens to make better use of their extra capacity, explore alternative menus, capitalise on food trends, and increase their overall revenue.
But how exactly do you open a virtual restaurant? If you’re new to the idea, it’s hard to know where to start. Don’t worry, we’re here to help.
Here are some top tips for expanding your operations and kickstarting your own virtual kitchen.
Work with a delivery franchise partner
To launch your virtual kitchen on the right foot, consider partnering with a delivery franchise partner (like us here at Peckwater brands - hi 👋).
A delivery franchise partner provides existing kitchen operators with fully-serviced food concepts. It’s our job to do the following:
- Create the virtual food branding
- Write platform listings for online delivery platforms (like Just Eat, Deliveroo, and Uber Eats)
- Source suppliers
- Create new and exciting recipes (we use local data to inform our recipes)
- Design food and delivery packaging
- Train to your kitchen staff to cook and prepare the food
- Provide all the online delivery technology
Using a franchise partner can take a weight off your shoulders. It leaves all the heavy lifting to us, helping you maximise the value of your virtual kitchen brand. Look at our partners as an example.
By working with us, our partners have seen an average of +823% increase in their delivery orders.
If you work with Peckwater, you’ll also get continual support throughout the process – be it brand management advice, performance management, or marketing advice. This will ensure that your virtual brand continues to perform strongly. If there’s room for improvement, we can advise on how to make changes to get better results.
To find out more about working with us, get in touch with the team!
Review your capacity and resources
To successfully launch a virtual brand, you need a clear picture of your capacity and resources. This gives you get a better idea of the type of food you could create in line with your existing operations.
The areas you need to review include the following:
- Your kitchen space and layout
- Your kitchen equipment
- Your ingredients
- Your kitchen staff
- Your current workload (and whether there’s capacity for more food orders)
With this information, you can make informed decisions about launching a virtual kitchen.
For example, imagine that you’re the head chef at a Chinese restaurant. Having reviewed the above information, you know that your kitchen has the space, equipment, and capacity to prepare more food. So, you consider launching a virtual brand.
But what food should you prepare?
This is where reviewing your ingredients comes in handy. You take a look at your ingredients and notice that some of them could make deep fried chicken. And voila! You’re on your way to creating a virtual chicken brand.
If you’re reading this and thinking “wow, this sounds like a lot of work”, don’t worry. If you work with Peckwater, we’ll take care of this for you.
During the early stages of our partnership, we’ll discuss your kitchen capacity, equipment, and other resources. Then, we’ll help you choose the right virtual brand for your kitchen to set you up for success - which leads us nicely to our next section.
Choose the right virtual brand for your kitchen
For some businesses, deciding which brand to adopt is an intimidating task. After all, the hospitality sector can be very fickle, with trends coming and going at the drop of a hat.
So how do you find the right virtual brand for your kitchen?
There are a few ways to approach it:
- Review your current ingredients. As mentioned, you can use your existing ingredients to inform your virtual brand. For example, if you’re already making a lot of vegetarian food, you might want to launch a vegetarian virtual brand to maximise your ingredients and reduce food waste.
- Take a look at local customer demand. To make sure that customers want to order from your online kitchen, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with local food trends. Is there a particular type of food that’s popular in your area? Or something that you should avoid? With this information, you can create a virtual brand that meets customer demand. Food delivery platforms like Just Eat, Deliveroo, and Uber Eats are all good sources for this information.
- Analyse local competitors. Take a look at what your local competitors are doing. This can give you some insight into what the food delivery market looks like in your area, what customers want, and what they don’t want. You can use this information to inform decisions about your own virtual kitchen.
If you decide to work with a delivery franchise partner like Peckwater, you can leave all of this to us.
We’ll work with you to find a brand that best suits your capacity, as well as assessing local demand and cuisine trends. Our team of experts will use this information to recommend a virtual brand that’s right for your kitchen.
We’ll also make sure that the brands we recommend all require transferrable ingredients and facilities. This means that if you wish to pursue an alternative brand, you’re already equipped to do so.
For example, any kitchen that already offers chicken could adopt a fried chicken brand, but they could easily pivot to a Mexican or Caribbean brand. After all, the main protein is the same – they may just need to buy some more condiments or ingredients for side dishes (all of which we’ll arrange)!
Popular virtual kitchen concepts
Let’s take a look at some popular virtual brands to give you some inspiration for your own food delivery service.
From Kentucky-fried to Teriyaki, chicken brands are a great way for your existing restaurant to branch out and reach new customers - especially if you already have chicken-based meals as part of your dine-in menu.
We currently have a variety of chicken virtual brands for you to choose from, including Non Nyam (Korean street food), Cluck & Run (crispy chicken wings, burgers, and wraps), and Chick a Boom (American fried chicken with added flair).
Bring the taste of Mexico to the UK with an online Mexican food brand. Create tacos, quesadillas, burritos, nachos, enchiladas, and more! Take a look at some of our Mexican food brands as an example. Our carefully researched menus allow you to prepare the rich, deep flavours of Mexican cuisine for consumers in your local area.
Create mouth-watering burgers for customers in your local area with an online burger brand. You can also incorporate other American classics (such as hot dogs, onion rings, and loaded french fries) to meet customer demand.
Browse some of our burger brands for inspiration!
Benefits of adopting a virtual brand
Launching a virtual kitchen has a lot of upsides for your hospitality business. For one, a virtual brand is a great way to increase restaurant revenue.
Think about it. You sell more food with a small increase in your overheads (if any at all). As a result, your profit margins increase while your outgoings remain pretty consistent. It’s a win-win.
When done well, food delivery also reduces food waste, which is a problem in the hospitality industry. In fact, the UNEP Food Waste Index found that over 25% of all food waste came from the food service industry in 2019.
The good news is that with a virtual brand, you can reduce the amount of food that goes to waste in your kitchen. Instead of throwing unused ingredients in the bin, you can use them to prepare meals for customers ordering from home.
Online food delivery also gives you access to valuable customer data. You can see what consumers like, what they don’t like, and adjust your menu accordingly. And if you partner with Peckwater, you’ll also get access to industry experts who can monitor hospitality trends in your local area.
Get in touch with Peckwater to launch your virtual kitchen
Identifying a viable virtual brand and adopting a new menu seems like a daunting task. It takes a great deal of planning and preparation, but with the right support from industry experts (such as Peckwater Brands 😎), the process isn’t as taxing as you think.
Get in touch with the team today to get the ball rolling. Before you know it, your virtual kitchen will help you reduce your food waste, reach new customers, and boost your income.