Complete Guide: How to Set Up and Run a Virtual Restaurant
Due to the coronavirus lockdown, many restaurants and eateries are needing to ‘go virtual’ to keep their business running and continue trading. Fortunately, you can set up and run a virtual restaurant in WordPress quickly and easily.
In this complete guide, you will learn how to build your own virtual restaurant website, which you will own 100%. This will save you lots of money compared to using a hosted restaurant ordering system such as Uber Eats, Grubhub, or DoorDash.
We’ll show you how to set up a virtual restaurant in WordPress using the WooCommerce Product Table plugin. By the time you’re done, your virtual restaurant site might look something like this:
What is a virtual restaurant?
A virtual restaurant (also called a ghost kitchen, ghost restaurant, or cloud kitchen) is a restaurant that offers delivery options only. Generally speaking, the virtual restaurant services are facilitated through web apps and third-party delivery companies like the Postmates food delivery app.
This restaurant concept is hugely popular in most large cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Kitchen United, for example, is a popular virtual kitchen and restaurant brand.
This foodservice business model allows restaurateurs to cut down on traditional expenses that come with offering a dine-in experience. Adapting the virtual restaurant or ghost kitchen approach can help your restaurant business stay operational during the global coronavirus crisis.
How does a virtual restaurant work?
Customers can go to the restaurant’s website to view menus and place their orders online. Once a customer places their order, the virtual restaurant kitchen is immediately notified, and kitchen staff begins preparing the order.
The establishment then delivers the food directly to the customer or uses a third-party food delivery service to deliver the meal to the customer’s location. Some virtual restaurants offer both online payment options and cash on delivery. Once the food is delivered, patrons can enjoy it in their own dining room.
Benefits of online-only restaurants
As compared to the traditional restaurant business model, virtual restaurants have their own set of benefits.
For starters, restaurant owners can mitigate the costs associated with finding an ample restaurant space with room for dining in and instead use that budget to create a kitchen that focuses on improving food preparation processes. Additionally, you can also opt for a shared kitchen setup.
In addition to this, virtual restaurant owners can change their menu items whenever they’d like. This is especially useful if a particular ingredient becomes unavailable or is temporarily inaccessible. This also means that you can experiment with your menu and swap out dishes that aren’t popular with your customer base.
Not to mention, studies indicate that customers favor home-delivery dining options, which makes a strong case for setting up a virtual restaurant – especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
Types of food that sell best from virtual restaurants
One of the key benefits of running a virtual restaurant is that you can use the wealth of dynamic customer data available to you to your advantage. For example, you might search for the different types of foods and meals that sell best from virtual restaurants and pizzerias in your area on Google.
Here are some popular examples:
- Chinese and Japanese food – sushi, noodles, spring rolls
- Indian food – BBQ, chicken tikka masala, naan
- Mexican food – tacos, burritos, nachos, taco salad
- Pizza – make your own pizza with different toppings and crust sizes
- Mediterranean food – shawarmas and Greek salad
- Fast-casual food – burgers, sliders, wraps, fried chicken, and fries
How to set up and run a virtual restaurant
The first thing you need to do is set up an attractive, easy-to-use website for your virtual restaurant complete with an order form and delivery slots.
For this, we recommend using WordPress and WooCommerce, so you have full ownership of your virtual restaurant website. This isn’t possible with a hosted solution like Uber Eats, Deliveroo, and Just Eat. Consider using a WooCommerce restaurant theme like Delicio:
If you don’t already have a WordPress website, you’ll need to choose a hosting company to make your website available to patrons. We recommend going with a reliable web hosting provider like Kinsta.
Here’s a complete video tutorial you can follow:
Step #1: Create your virtual restaurant website
If you don’t already have a WordPress website set up, you’ll need to create one on a hosting account. We recommend Kinsta as they’re a managed WordPress host that’s perfect for running a website for your virtual restaurant.
The best part is that you can install WordPress directly from your Kinsta account. Once you’ve entered your domain name, location, and site title, you can configure your login credentials and install WooCommerce to enable e-commerce features.
The WooCommerce Setup Wizard is incredibly intuitive and walks you through the process of setting up e-commerce features for your virtual restaurant website. Since you’ll be offering food delivery options, it’s important to configure your shipping zones and delivery areas carefully.
If you deliver food to a single area and charge the same delivery costs then you only need to create one shipping zone. However, if you’re going to deliver food to multiple areas and charge different costs depending on the area, you’ll need to create multiple shipping zones.
WooCommerce lets you choose from three different delivery options including flat rate, free shipping, and local pickup.
Step #2: Add a food menu
The next step is to add each food item as an individual WooCommerce product. To keep things organized, start by creating different categories for your menu items similar to how you’d do it on a paper menu. For example, your categories might be Starters, Main Courses, and Desserts.
Once that’s done, head over to Products → Add New from the WordPress admin panel to add each food as a product. At the bare minimum, you should enter a title, brief description, image, and price of the food item. Select the appropriate category for the food item and (optionally) add tags.
If you’re thinking of selling make your own pizzas or need a way to offer a choice of options for a dish, you’ll need to create a variable product.
Read our guide on how to add product variations to create options for food for more info.
Step #3: Create a food order form using WooCommerce Product Table
To let customers place orders, you’ll need to create an order form using the WooCommerce Product Table plugin. You’ll receive the plugin files and license key in an email. Install the plugin to your WordPress website and activate it. Next, head over to WooCommerce → Settings → Products → Product table from the WordPress dashboard and activate the plugin license.
Now, go through the different settings available with the WooCommerce Product Table plugin to configure your food order form.
Here are some recommended configuration settings for a virtual restaurant site:
- Columns – For a virtual restaurant site, add
image,name,description,tags,price,add-to-cartto the Columns
- Product links – Type
noneto prevent patrons from navigating to the single product page of each food item.
- Add to cart button – Select either the Button and checkbox or Checkbox option to let customers choose multiple foods and add them to the cart at once.
- Quantities – This adds a quantity selector to the order form. This way, customers can order more than one of each food item.
- Variations – Choose the Dropdown option if you’ve added any variable food items to your menu.
- Product filters – Choose Custom fields and enter
categoriesto add filters for product categories above the food order form.
Finally, create your front-end online orders form by creating a new page and adding the shortcode
[product_table] to it.
This will create a single order form for your virtual restaurant. Alternatively, you can divide the food order form into different sections based on categories. For this, you would use the shortcode
[product_table category=”starters”] instead.
Step #4: Set opening hours and delivery times using WooCommerce Delivery Slots
If you’re offering food delivery options to customers, you’ll need an easy way to manage customer expectations and delivery orders. This is possible with the WooCommerce Delivery Slots plugin.
Once you have the plugin installed and activated on your website, you can go to WooCommerce → Delivery Slots to configure your delivery dates and time slots. Here are some of the main features you’ll want to use for your virtual restaurant site:
- Opening hours – This option lets you mark the days your restaurant is closed by disabling delivery slots. It also lets you add time slots and set opening times.
- Delivery dates and time slots – You can add delivery slots based on the way you choose to structure food deliveries.
- ASAP delivery option – This is great for restaurants that want to give customers the option to get their meal delivered as soon as possible.
- Maximum number of deliveries per delivery slot – This option lets you better manage kitchen capacity by adding a limit to the number of delivery orders per slot.
Add the shortcode
[jckwds] to any page to insert a table of available delivery time slots. For example, you can add this right above the order form. This way, customers can reserve a delivery slot before placing their order and avoid any disappointment later on.
For in-depth, step-by-step instructions, be sure to check out our article on how to create a restaurant ordering system.
Set up your virtual restaurant today
If you’re looking for ways to keep your restaurant running during the coronavirus crisis, consider setting up a virtual restaurant (or ghost restaurant) that serves solely as a delivery base or offers takeout. You can do this whether you have a physical restaurant or not. Virtual restaurants are hugely popular in the restaurant industry.
Start by installing the WooCommerce plugin on your WordPress website. Next, add food items as individual products in WooCommerce. Finally, use the WooCommerce Product Table plugin and the WooCommerce Delivery Slots plugin to create a front-end order form and a table of available delivery time slots.
Ready to set up your virtual restaurant and grow your bottom line? Get WooCommerce Product Table today!