How to Open a Ghost Kitchen in Pittsburgh

You’re likely hearing a lot about Ghost Kitchens right now, and not just because it is spooky season. Ghost kitchens are seeing widespread popularity because they are helping current restaurants and hopeful restauranteurs maximize their profits in the current delivery boom. Now is the time for Pittsburgh restaurants and chefs to jump in on the delivery-only ghost kitchen trend and Sofranko Advisory Group has all the information you need.

Ghost kitchens are the new food truck, in terms of ease of access to the industry and popularity. But unlike a food truck, ghost kitchens aren’t seasonal and don’t require finding new locations and markets. Now’s the time to jump on this trend, as there is room in many neighborhoods for delivery-only options.

What do you need to start a ghost kitchen? We’ve got all the expert advice you need, from a team who has done it!

Benefits of a Ghost Kitchen

Ghost kitchens have several benefits, especially in the current environment. The benefits differ whether you’re an existing restaurant trying to expand your delivery service, or someone looking to jump into the industry with a ghost kitchen concept.

Benefits of a Ghost Kitchen for Existing Restaurants


If you have a restaurant, adding a ghost kitchen can help gain traction with a new audience or a new concept. Many chain restaurants have launched ghost kitchens this year, including Chuck E. Cheese and Smokey Bones. They’ve found that customers are finding their restaurants by searching on delivery apps. Consumers tend to search general categories like “pizza” or “burgers” and they’re not landing on these brands even though they have pizza, in the case of Chuck E. Cheese, or burgers, in the case of Smokey Bones. A delivery-only “restaurant” branded as a pizza shop or burger operation is more likely to capture these customers.

Benefits of a Ghost Kitchen for New Restaurants

If you’ve dreamt of opening a restaurant, a ghost kitchen might be perfect for you. With minimal overhead, you can utilize commissary kitchens or leased kitchens, and a small staff to get your restaurant concept up and running. The area of your kitchen space is less important when your customers are dining at home. As long as you have a sizable delivery radius, you’re ready to go! Choosing a location/area can be challenging in Pittsburgh because we are so spread out. You can base your location around a target market, kitchen availability, or where you live.

To talk through choosing a location, contact us.

Finding the Right Concept and Space

The right concept is essential for a ghost kitchen. Since there’s no in-person location or customer service, only the menu/ concept will draw potential customers in. You also need a commercial kitchen to effectively run a ghost kitchen. This is one area where existing restaurants can have an advantage. Either way, there are options for commercial kitchens and low rent kitchens to start a new delivery-only restaurant.

Concept and Space for Existing Restaurants

Are there overlooked menu items that customers don’t expect from your restaurant? Do you want to get in on a trend, but don’t think it’ll take off with your current clientele?

  • Smokey Bones has been testing wings and burger concepts for ghost kitchens, after finding that customers weren’t considering these menu items for delivery.
  • In the case of Chuck E. Cheese, their Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings was aimed at a different audience than their typical dine-in customers. A ghost kitchen helped them overcome the barrier of customers thinking of their party-themed in-person pizza experience.

Concept and Space New Restaurants

If your concept includes easy to transport food, this might be the time to test the water. With low overhead, quality food, and tactical service, your business will thrive regardless of the restaurant occupancy restrictions. The largest hurdle being the ability to find a commercial kitchen at an affordable price.

An increase in commissary kitchens for rent exists for this purpose. You can find commercial kitchens for rent here. Another option is a restaurant space with an affordable or flexible lease. Depending on your concept, former pizza shops, fast-casual/ grab-and-go establishments, or cafes will offer what you need. While location is not as important, you need a target market in the delivery range and a reasonable price.

To talk through choosing a concept and perfecting your menu, contact us.

Pros and Cons of Delivery Partners

Delivery partners can be a touchy subject since some have practices that are not so good for small businesses. But for ghost restaurants, being active on various delivery apps can make a huge impact. More and more, customers are using apps like Doordash, Seamless, GrubHub, and Uber Eats to find places to eat, rather than going there with something specific in mind.

Pros of Delivery Service Partners

  • Customers interested in delivery will be searching here.
  • User experience through these apps is smooth and easy.
  • Customers often order more through an app.
  • Restaurants can upcharge to overcome some of the fees associated with delivery, as long as prices are competitive with other options.
  • Users search by category, so falling into a category like pizza, wings, or sandwiches, will promote restaurant traffic.
  • You can offer special deals and offers through these services and enter into relationships to maximize your usage.

Cons of Delivery Service Partners

  • Fees for customers and operators can be prohibitive.
  • Managing overhead is essential to counteract fees.
  • Delivery experience may unfairly affect your restaurant’s reputation
  • Speed matters, so responding to orders and delivery drivers must be prompt.
  • Tracking orders from different services can be difficult.
  • Managing your menu, prices, and specials can get complex on multiple services.

Providing in a house delivery is also an option, especially if you have your own online ordering functionality. Just remember that you’ll have to work a little harder at marketing, as much of the success of ghost kitchens comes from customers searching in delivery service apps.

Do you have questions about working with delivery partners, we can help! Contact us.

SAG Has Ghost Kitchen Experience

If you’re interested in starting a ghost kitchen in Pittsburgh but have some questions about the specifics? Our founder, Ron Sofranko, was just involved in launching a ghost kitchen concept in the Pittsburgh area. If you need help figuring out your concept or finding a commercial kitchen to use, we can help!

Contact Sofranko Advisory Group for consulting now! Learn more or call 724-935-2151, and we will walk you through it.

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