This aspect of sustaining your digital dining room can come at a steep price. A good delivery partner will virtualize your dining room to expand the possibilities to potentially reach hundreds or thousands of more guests each day. Further, with a ghost kitchen you have shed the traditional labor aspects of counter and dining room service.
But, it’s not completely accurate to say “shed” because from a cost-structure it is more like you “traded” the operations cost of that labor. The costs that may have eaten up 10–20 percent of your check in labor costs to serve in an onsite dining room will likely now take up 5–30 percent in commissions of each check. Thus, margins in a digital dining room can become even more challenging than with a traditional brick-and-mortar restaurant if the contract isn’t structured to suit your business and kitchen or not managed properly. So, just like with KaaS, shop around with both large operators such as UberEats, DoorDash, Postmates or even localized delivery providers to see who can quote you with the best deal that will work for you.
Beyond the finances of balance sheets and decisions that drive margin, it’s also important to understand a variety of things regarding vetting your new partners to ensure they’re a good fit and that what their own brand represents aligns with your brand ideals. In a world where the phrases “woke culture” and “cancel culture” have a democratic voice in influencing customer behavior, it’s important to know the principles to which you’re now bound.
For example, just last week, commercial kitchen provider CloudKitchen has found them in a precarious position as a moral arbiter of acceptable social behavior with a controversy surrounding an Asian restaurant menu item called a “Happy Ending.” Allegedly, CloudKitchen staff has complained this is inappropriate and CEO Travis Kalanick decided, “his startup did not seek to accommodate the press or woke culture.”
No matter whether you think this stance is appropriate or inappropriate, the point is to ask some questions ahead of time to understand how your partners can be expected to handle any controversies. What comes to pass within the duration of a partnership might involve unfair labor practices, an expose on sanitation conditions or, yes, even a simple controversy on the role the partner company has to play on a question such as the appropriateness of menu item names sold by one of their clients.
Restaurant consumers are becoming ever more democratically savvy on the social influence of endorsing and boycotting companies' partners and so it’s important to understand and stay on top of controversies originating within partner organizations that might affect your own brand.
Past that, 64 percent of consumers also now prioritize social responsibility when selecting a restaurant to visit – including local community support and charitable contributions. This is another area to ask questions on and use as criteria for evaluating partners. Boiled down: Do your partners align to the same local community support and charitable donations ideals that your own company and brand aspire to be an icon for?
Related: To win the hearts of young consumers, businesses need to put frontline workers first
In the area of reviewing the team or teams that serve part of your digital dining room, it’s wise to also look at how your new partners manage employees. In your ghost kitchen setup, you might now have a kitchen labor force and facilities supplied by one company and delivery services provided by another.