Hand on smartphone ordering burgers on mobile interface from ghost kitchen using local content

5 Local Search Strategies for Ghost Kitchens

Ghost kitchen. Virtual restaurant. Cloud kitchen. 

Whatever term you’ve heard, these digital-and-delivery-only food businesses are taking the restaurant industry by storm. But what are ghost kitchens, anyway, and how can you run a successful one with support from a local search strategy?

What Are Ghost Kitchens?

A ghost kitchen is an online-only food brand operated from a physical kitchen space at a restaurant. Ghost restaurants don’t offer seating or dine-in options, and consumers can order food for delivery from them only via website or phone.

To be a proper ghost kitchen (and not just a delivery option for an existing restaurant), a virtual restaurant should have a separate brand from the physical restaurant that houses it. For example, a national restaurant chain called Enchilada Palace might have a ghost-kitchen brand called TacoCat. Enchilada Palace’s customers could enjoy a sit-down dining area inside a physical storefront and an exclusive menu. TacoCat’s customers won’t have access to a physical location, and they’ll see a menu that’s unique to the TacoCat brand. The location might be the same for the two brands, but the product or service, branding, target audience, and overall experience will be different across them.

In 2020, more than 1.2 billion people used online food delivery services. “Food near me” is one of the fastest-growing search terms, and 68% of people are more likely to order takeout than they were pre-pandemic. Restaurant brands have noticed; in fact, there are more than 1,500 ghost kitchens in the U.S., and it’s trending to be a $1T market by 2030.

Ready to put your brand at the forefront of this skyrocketing trend with a new ghost kitchen? Want to get serious about boosting sales on an existing cloud kitchen? Learn how to cook up a delicious marketing strategy for your online food business with these data-driven steps.

Marketing Strategy for Online Food Business: 5 Things to Implement

1. Create local content.

Even if your brand has locations all over the state (or country), you need locally optimized content. Think of your local content pages as self-published Yellow Pages listings. While some additional effort is required on your part, there is an upside — you control what each listing says. The downside? That’s a lot of content to write, especially if you have hundreds or thousands of locations.

And before you think about writing one page of copy for all your locations, changing the city name, and calling it a day, you should know that Google will see this as duplicate content — a HUGE no-no that will hurt your local ranking. Instead of spending valuable time and resources writing a completely different page for every location, turn to GPO’s GetLocal Pages platform for on-brand, unique, scalable content. We can get your local pages up and running in no time. Plus, we create more than just local pages — we can help create unique, localized content for every single city in which you operate.

2. Publish mobile-optimized, fast-loading local pages.

If your website and ordering experience are desktop optimized, consider this: 89% of restaurant and food searches take place on mobile. It’s time to create a start-to-finish experience that works seamlessly — and fast — on mobile devices.

Google wants to give consumers the best possible experience, so mobile-optimized web pages that load quickly are more likely to rank higher in Google searches. Besides, who wants to wait for a web page to load when they’re approaching “hangry” status? No one —  62% of people have been discouraged from ordering takeout or delivery because of a bad website experience. GPO’s GetLocal Pages platform has a consistent speed score of 90 or greater, so you’ll never have to worry about slow web pages costing you sales opportunities.

3. Create local listings.

Here’s a question we often hear: can I have multiple local business listings at the same location? While there’s no hard-and-fast answer, it’s usually not an issue. Even if your ghost kitchen has the same address as your physical location, you’ll want to set up a separate listing on the Google Business Profile platform (previously called Google My Business).

To set up a Google Business Profile listing, you need an address and phone number (the number should be different from your physical location brand), as well as a website that’s unique to the ghost kitchen brand (more on this in our next point). In your ghost kitchen listing, you can mention that your virtual brand is “inside” the parent company. For example, a TacoCat listing for Nashville, Tennessee, could state that it’s “Inside the 11th Ave Enchilada Palace” or something similar.

When creating local listings, you’ll want to optimize your ghost kitchen’s local search ranking without cannibalizing your physical location’s ranking. Striking a balance can be tricky, but it’s not impossible — especially if you enlist the help of business listing distribution pros who can tailor your listings with specific local keywords to reach audiences who prefer either in-person dining or delivery.

4. Link your local pages with business listings.

Think it’s enough to link your Google Business Profile listings to your brand’s home page? Think again. The more keyphrase-rich local content you can link to, the better.

With that in mind, always link your Google listings to those local pages you created. Google’s indexing technology will use your local pages to fact-check the information in your listing, which can lead to higher ranking and better placement in the map pack (the location-based results at the top of a search results page).

Plus, linking to a local page makes the user experience a breeze. Easy navigation and less time spent searching for the nearest location can lead to a higher conversion rate from Google traffic to your local page.

5. Harness the power of customer reviews and photos.

Any small business or restaurant owner will tell you that word-of-mouth marketing is vital. But what is word-of-mouth marketing in a digital age? What does that look like when your consumers may never actually interact with one another?

Instead of literal word-of-mouth, here’s how word-of-mouth marketing works in a digital space: user-generated content like reviews and photos are must-haves. When it comes to a business with no physical location or a new, unfamiliar brand, consumers trust other consumers’ opinions.

One Harvard Business Review study found that positive online reviews correlated with an increase in revenue. You want to take advantage of every opportunity for increased revenue, so how can you encourage customers to post reviews and photos? Here are a few ideas:

  • Implement a loyalty program that offers rewards for published Google reviews
  • Offer a discount or incentive for leaving a review or posting a photo
  • Post on your brand’s social media channels to ask for reviews, and provide a direct link for submissions
  • Add a “submit a review” button to your website
  • Create an email marketing funnel that requests feedback from customers after they receive their order, and asks for a review if they had a positive experience

How to Market a Restaurant With No Physical Location

When it comes to restaurant marketing strategies in the age of ghost kitchens, your brand needs support from the experts. From local keyword research to engaging, CTA-driven content, the GPO team knows how to improve local search results and support your ghost kitchen’s success. Reach out today and see for yourself how an upgraded local search strategy can translate into bottom-line results.

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