Virtual Kitchen Dictionary

Written by
September 18, 2023

Virtual kitchens are becoming increasingly popular in cities across the nation! Gone are the days of making risky investments to expand your restaurant business. With a virtual restaurant, you can maximize revenue, streamline delivery operations, and cater to a broad audience of hungry foodies on the go!

Restaurant lingo can get pretty confusing even to those who've been in the hospitality industry for a while. Here's a small collection of terms you can learn to sound like a pro in no time!

Common Terms

1. Virtual Kitchen

virtual kitchen is a cooking space that exclusively serves delivery-only patrons. Businesses typically set these kitchens up to prepare orders for virtual restaurants that have no physical storefront. However, they can also be a dedicated workspace for kitchen staff that focuses on delivery or carry-out orders or a traditional dine-in restaurant.

Generally, virtual kitchens operate alongside brick-and-mortar restaurants. But, they have a distinct work area and workflow to keep orders separate.

Virtual Kitchen

2. Dark Kitchen

A dark kitchen is another term for ghost and virtual kitchens. Once again, they are separate spaces to prepare delivery orders.

The original dark kitchen referred to leased kitchen spaces. Restaurants would rent out working areas to deliver food to remote diners. They were also a favorite among caterers.

3. Cloud Kitchen

A cloud kitchen is another name for ghost and virtual kitchens. Like before, businesses utilize these rented spaces to prepare orders for delivery-only virtual restaurants.

Most cloud kitchens are on the larger side and can accommodate multiple restaurant teams. They have separate workspaces but often share resources to keep costs low.

4. Shadow Kitchen

This dubious-sounding name is another term for an off-site kitchen that businesses can rent. Shadow kitchens can be part of a larger shared commercial kitchen or a private one.

Either way, the shadow kitchen doesn't serve dine-in brick-and-mortar restaurants. Instead, it's exclusively for delivery orders from virtual restaurants.

5. Ghost Kitchen

People often use the terms "ghost kitchen" and "virtual kitchen" interchangeably. Technically speaking, they refer to similar ways of doing business. Ghost kitchens serve delivery-only virtual restaurants much like a virtual kitchen.

The difference is that ghost kitchens are rented spaces made available by third-party property owners. The kitchen is usually off-site of a traditional restaurant, allowing staff to prepare orders away from dine-in operations.

6. Digital Kitchen

A digital kitchen is similar to a ghost or virtual kitchen. However, it builds on the concept and focuses on technology to deliver efficiency and a better customer experience. Digital kitchens share a connection to third-party delivery apps or dedicated ordering sites.

Workers receive the order, prepare the food, and send it out the door for quick and efficient delivery.

7. Commissary Kitchen

A commissary kitchen is one that multiple brands share. It's also known as a shared kitchen.

Each brand has staff that prepares its respective delivery orders. The food leaves the kitchen and quickly goes into the delivery queue to reach customers. Like before, commissary kitchens do not have a physical storefront.

8. Delivery-only Restaurants

Delivery-only restaurants do not offer in-house dining options. Most don't have a physical location, preparing meals in ghost kitchens for delivery.

They typically have a more concise menu and a distinct theme. Also known as virtual restaurants, these establishments became popular during the pandemic and are still going strong today.

9. Menu Engineering

Menu engineering is a restaurant business strategy that focuses on maximizing a brand's profitability. It's about evaluating menu pricing, profit margin, and dish popularity.

Standard menus contain a mix of high- and low-cost items. Engineering works to encourage diners to choose the foods that offer the highest profit margin, establishing a cost balance that maximizes profits across the board. It's an essential part of launching a virtual restaurant.


10. Front of House

Front of house (FOH) refers to what your customers directly experience at a restaurant. That includes the people, the places, and the items.For example, the FOH staff might include hosts and waiters. Meanwhile, the FOH area would consist of the dining room.Even with delivery-only virtual restaurants, the FOH environment would be the customer-facing website where people can make orders.

11. Back of House

The back of house (BOH) includes all the things your customers don't see. It's the behind-the-scenes action and is usually the part of your business that's responsible for keeping things running smoothly.

BOH staff includes cooks and food preparers. Virtual restaurants run entirely with BOH staff and operations.

12. 86'D

This term is one that you're likely to hear in all restaurant environments. When a dish is 86'd, one of the core ingredients is no longer available. The BOH staff can no longer make the dish, so it's essentially sold out and made unavailable in online ordering menus and POS systems.

The saying goes back to the 1930s and is still used frequently in virtual restaurants and traditional establishments.

13. POS

POS stands for point of sale. It's the sales terminal at restaurants and is where customers will pay for the items they ordered. In the old days, it was a traditional cash register.

However, modern POS systems are all digital. Even online ordering platforms use a POS to facilitate payments and send orders to the kitchen.

Ghost Kitchen

14. Mise en place

"Mise en place" is a French saying that translates to "put in place."

In the culinary world, mise en place is the act of preparing equipment and food ingredients. It's a crucial organizational step that streamlines the kitchen workflow and makes preparing meals much more efficient.

15. Staging

Staging is a type of education that helps cooks learn the ropes. While most restaurants provide training and guidebooks, staging is a way to pick up new techniques and see how existing cooks do things.

It can help create consistency among the staff and reduce downtime for traditional training.

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