Virtual restaurants are a great way for hospitality businesses to make more money. They diversify your income, help you reach more customers, and boost your food orders.
But if you’re new to the idea, how exactly do you start your own virtual restaurant?
To get you started on the right foot, we’ve outlined 5 steps you can follow to launch your own virtual restaurant (and why partnering with a delivery franchise company can help you succeed).
What is a virtual restaurant?
A virtual restaurant (also known as a virtual brand or virtual kitchen) is an online-only restaurant. It operates out of an existing kitchen, but it has its own brand and menu.
Take a look at our virtual restaurant brands as an example. Our partners use these brands to run a food-delivery operation from their kitchen. The brands include online menus, food packaging, and full logistical support to get set up for delivery.
Then, their online customers then order the food through third-party delivery apps like Just East, Deliveroo, and Uber Eats.
Why you should run a virtual restaurant
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of running a virtual brand from your existing kitchen.
Expand with less hassle and risk
Unlike a traditional brick-and-mortar kitchen, a virtual kitchen can improve your business with less hassle and lower risk. Here’s how:
- Lower overhead costs. Virtual kitchens are all online. There’s no need to worry about paying for a physical dining space or covering the costs of rent, utilities, and maintenance. You’re already paying these bills for your dine-in customers, so it doesn’t make any difference when you launch a virtual brand.
- Increased flexibility. With a virtual kitchen, you don’t have a physical space to manage. This means you can quickly adapt and expand your operations to meet customer demand. It's also easier to experiment with new concepts, menu items, or target new markets without the constraints of a fixed physical location.
- Working with a delivery franchise partner. Launching a virtual kitchen with a delivery franchise partner (like Peckwater Brands — hey there 👋) means you don’t have to worry about the logistics. We take care of training, branding, menu creation, and get you set up on third-party delivery platforms like Just Eat and Deliveroo. It’s much less hassle for you, but you’re still making more money. Find out more about how it works.
New revenue opportunities
Launching a virtual kitchen helps you diversify your income. You’re no longer relying on one source of revenue, which means you’re protecting your business and helping it grow at the same time. It’s a win-win!
Think about days when you have slow periods and not as many customers coming through the door. With a virtual kitchen in place, you can still generate income with online orders — even when it’s a slow day.
Expand reach with delivery apps
By offering a food-delivery service, you’re attracting that audience and giving yourself a new opportunity to make money.
Let’s put it into perspective.
In 2022, there were 260 million takeaway orders on Just Eat in the UK — and that’s just one delivery platform.
Now, we’re not saying that your online orders will reach all 260 million Just Eat customers (as great as that would be for business). But think about what this figure represents. It’s a lot of people ordering food online who probably wouldn’t visit your dine-in location.
Types of food that sell best from virtual restaurants
Here are some stats that highlight popular cuisines for online food delivery.
- A study from Statista found Chinese (25%) to be the most popular takeaway cuisine in 2021, followed by Indian (17%), fish and chips (16%), and pizza (12%).
- Deliveroo’s top 100 report found that burritos were the most popular menu item from food delivery in 2022, followed by pad thai and cheeseburgers.
- A survey from HelloFresh found the most popular food in different regions across the UK. In London, it’s Japanese food; in Bristol, it’s Mexican food; and in Birmingham, it’s American food.
If you’re not sure which type of food works best for your kitchen, get in touch with the team at Peckwater.
We’ll review local market data to find a virtual brand that’s right for customers in your area. Plus, we’ll take your operations and existing ingredients into account to make it as easy as possible to run a food delivery operation from your kitchen.
How to start a virtual restaurant in 5 easy steps
Take a look at the following steps to find out how to launch a virtual brand from your existing kitchen.
1. Choose a virtual food brand
When it comes to launching a virtual kitchen, you have two options to choose from:
- Create your own virtual restaurant brand. Creating your own brand means that you’re in charge of creating the menu, branding, packaging, delivery logistics, and so on. By creating your own brand, you’ll have more control over the brand and the type of food you sell. But it’s quite a big undertaking to do it well, so it can be helpful to work with an expert instead (which leads us nicely to our next option).
- Partner with a delivery franchise company. Working with a franchise partner like Peckwater Brands means that you’ll have a selection of virtual brands to choose from. We’ll handle the branding, marketing, promotion, menu creation, and more. Plus, we’ll also analyse local data to find the best virtual brands for your business. Have a look at our virtual food brands to see what’s available.
There’s no right or wrong choice here. You just need to decide whether you want to design your own food brand, or use an expert to identify the best brands for your business.
2. Identify the competition
If you opt to create your own virtual restaurant, you’ll need to review the competition in your local area.
Because this will tell you:
- What sort of food your local customers want
- How you can differentiate yourself from the competition
- Whether there are any gaps you can fill
To review your competition, take a look online at third-party delivery apps (like Uber Eats, Just Eat, and Deliveroo) to see what sort of food is in your vicinity. Review their menus, branding, and prices to get a better idea of what you could sell to appeal to a similar customer base.
If this sounds like too much effort, or you’re worried that you might not find the right type of food for your business, see how it works. We’ll do all this hard work for you, and our industry experts will review local data to find the perfect virtual brand for your business.
3. Create your virtual restaurant menu
After choosing what type of food to create, you can now create your online menu.
Here are a couple of best practices to think about when creating your menu:
- Consider your existing ingredients. It’s a good idea to create a menu that incorporates some of your existing ingredients. That way, you’ll reduce your food waste and keep costs low by buying ingredients in bulk.
- Review your operations. It’s no use designing a menu that’s not suitable for your kitchen operations and equipment. Take all of this into account to make sure your menu is efficient and achievable.
We don’t want to sound like a broken record, but working with an expert will make this process much easier.
For example, our partners don’t have to worry about creating any menus at all. We design all the menus, and even provide training to all staff so they know how to prepare the food. Take a look at some of our case studies to see how our partners benefit from working with us.
4. Centralise all your technology
There’s a lot of technology involved in successfully launching a virtual brand. You need to think about your point-of-sale system, your delivery channels, and so on.
Fortunately, there are platforms out there that help you combine all the necessary technology into one location.
Deliverect is a great example. With Deliverect, you can directly connect all your delivery channels to your POS system, streamlining your entire delivery flow.
In other words, it centralises all your software so you can manage all your online orders with one system. That way, you don’t have to worry about flicking back and forth between different platforms to keep track of your orders.
5. Invest in and promote your virtual brand
When your virtual brand is up and running, you’ll need to do all you can to help your brand reach as many customers as possible in your local area.
Here are some tips to increase your reach and (hopefully) boost your online orders:
- Use paid advertising. Paid ads are a great way to reach customers in your area and raise awareness of your brand. You can create and pay for ads on search engines like Google, or even on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
- Increase visibility on delivery apps. By boosting your visibility on delivery apps, you’re far more likely to reach a wider audience. As a result, you’ve got a higher chance of getting more orders. To find out how to get your virtual restaurant at the top of a customer’s search page, take a look at these 5 tips to increase visibility on UberEats, Just Eat, and Deliveroo.
- Launch a loyalty scheme. Loyalty schemes aren’t necessarily a way to promote your brands, but they’re a great way to encourage existing customers to come back. You can find out more about how to set up a loyalty scheme here.
We know that having the time, money, and resources to promote a virtual restaurant isn’t possible for every business. The good news is that if you partner with Peckwater Brands, we’ll handle all the marketing for you.
We’ll also track and monitor your marketing performance. If things can be improved, we’ll make the changes so you can see better results.
FAQs about virtual restaurants
Do you still have some unanswered questions about virtual restaurants? Don’t worry. We’ve answered some of the most popular questions about running a virtual restaurant.
Can I run a virtual restaurant from home?
Running a virtual restaurant from home isn’t generally possible, mostly because they typically run out of a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Plus, there are various factors to consider when running a food-delivery operation from your home. For example, local regulations, licensing requirements, and the nature of your home environment.
What’s the difference between a virtual restaurant and a ghost kitchen?
Unlike a virtual restaurant, a ghost kitchen (sometimes called a dark kitchen) isn’t part of a regular kitchen operation. Instead, the food is prepared in a kitchen that’s only used for food delivery. It’s not open to the public and there’s no dine-in premises. You can find out more about ghost kitchens in this article.
Are virtual restaurants profitable?
Virtual restaurants have the potential to be profitable, but it varies depending on the market, the food concept, your operational efficiency, and your execution.
To give yourself the best chance of success, it’s a good idea to partner with an expert. Take a look at us, for example. Our partners make an extra £12,000 - £57,000 on average every month with our virtual brands. Get in touch to see how we can help you!