How To Open a Delivery-Only Restaurant

Learn the keys to opening a delivery-only, virtual restaurant and/or a restaurant that operates within another restaurant.

10 min read
Francis Cui of Bak Kung BBQ with DoorDash hot bag

What is a delivery-only restaurant?

The last few years have seen the need for food delivery surge, with customers seeking out and prioritizing convenience during and post the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurateurs all over the world discovered new ways to reach customers, as many pivoted to a delivery-only model or added a sizable delivery arm to their operations. Even with restrictions fully lifted, restaurateurs continue to see the advantages of having a delivery-only restaurant model. 

Hosting a well-known brand in your kitchen with Brand Licensing or opening a delivery-only restaurant can help you increase revenue and produce additional streams of income. Here are a few tips for how to open a successful delivery-only restaurant and the benefits of doing so. 

A step-by-step guide to opening a virtual restaurant

1. Lock in your concept

You'll want to have a clear idea of what foods will be on your menu — and ideally, these foods use the same ingredients as your existing brick-and-mortar restaurant, if you have one. If you're starting a delivery-only restaurant from scratch, ensure these ingredients can be used among multiple dishes. In addition, confirm that potential menu items can be easily delivered in take-out containers without compromising quality or safety. With Brand Licensing, DoorDash will suggest the concept that's the best fit for you based on your menu. 

2. Develop an impressive restaurant website and menu

A professional-looking website (along with a mobile-responsive, easy-to-read menu) optimized for Google and other search engines is the first step to gaining visibility and improving your delivery-only restaurant's online presence. 90% of customers start their search online when choosing a restaurant — more than any other type of business — so it's essential your restaurant has an optimized website and menu in your delivery-only restaurant business plan.

Mx Blog - Bak Kung BBQ profile on tablet

3. Simplify the ordering process 

In addition to DoorDash Marketplace, tools such as Storefront, a commission-free online ordering system, make it convenient for customers to find and order from your menu. There are no monthly fees; instead, businesses pay payment processing fees of 2.9% of the total transaction amount plus $0.30 per order. Consider signing up for a Google Business Listing and adding your preferred online ordering method so customers know where to order from you. 

4. Build a stand-out brand

Now that you have a brand and menu, it's time to think about a logo. You can create a logo yourself or hire graphic designers through sites like Fiverr or Upwork. If you're hosting another brand in your kitchen, get to know the host brand and ensure you have all the brand assets you need to start marketing your delivery-only restaurant.

5. Evaluate and re-assess your kitchen space

If you already have a restaurant, you'll want to make sure you have enough space to prep, cook, and store items for your delivery-only restaurant. If you're launching a standalone delivery-only restaurant, you can look into renting a commercial or cloud kitchen, which are designed specifically for delivery-only restaurants.

6. Invest in the right supplies

In a delivery-only restaurant, the right supplies make all the difference. Without a traditional brick-and-mortar space, this is the only chance a customer has to experience the unique touches that make your restaurant experience special. Invest in quality, sturdy takeout boxes, utensils, straws, and stickers to ensure that your food is delivered with the right touch. If you partner with DoorDash on Brand Licensing, DoorDash will handle the supplies, ingredients, and staff training needed to get your kitchen up and running. 

7. Partner with a third-party food delivery service 

Partnering with a third-party food delivery service can expand your restaurant's footprint, enabling you to reach new audiences. With DoorDash, you can launch a virtual brand based out of your existing restaurant for free, using your current kitchen and staff. Restaurants can enjoy a flexible business model that adds an incremental revenue stream without increasing operational costs. 

8. Recruit top-tier kitchen staff 

What hours do you want your delivery-only kitchen to operate? How many staff members should work those hours? These questions are especially important to ask if you're opening up a delivery-only restaurant within an existing restaurant. If you're hosting a well-known brand in your restaurant (like Bak Kung did), you can use existing staff and hours. If this is your first delivery-only restaurant, you'll want to calculate the number of staff you need and hours of operations at the outset.

9. Market and grow your new brand

As a DoorDash partner, using Promotions can help you reach thousands of new customers with select deals, and DoorDash will even handle your store page as a host kitchen. Sponsored Listings are another way to get your restaurant in front of new customers: your restaurant will appear prominently on the DoorDash app, and you only pay when customers order from your restaurant through Sponsored Listings.

When you license another brand with DoorDash, all the marketing for your new store will be handled by DoorDash as well. When you open a new delivery-only restaurant from scratch, the marketing is in your hands.

10. Expand your menu options

As a restaurant offering a delivery-only service, you have more freedom to be creative with menu options. Consider expanding your menu or including profitable items such as beer, wine, or mixed drinks. Some restaurants even host specific delivery-only brands devoted to food like wings or incorporate meal kits or pantry items to create additional revenue streams.

What are the benefits of delivery-only restaurants?

1. Increased profits

When Scaffidi's Restaurant Group (SRG) joined DoorDash in September 2020, the success of the DoorDash partnership prompted them to start two virtual, delivery-only kitchens, Scaffidi's Wings on Wheels and Scaffidi's Gnocchi Nook, shortly after. The virtual restaurant kitchens were so successful that SRG hired several full-time employees and added shifts for existing staff. 

Frankie DiCarlantonio, the director of SRG, says that DoorDash was a big factor in helping them reach new customers. "I wholeheartedly believe that we are getting new business from DoorDash. It's not replacing your sales, it's truly adding more sales to your operations," he says. 

2. New revenue streams with little overhead 

While SRG decided to open two new delivery-only concepts, restaurants don't need to develop a new menu in-house to add an incremental revenue stream.

By partnering and licensing a well-known brand, you can use your current kitchen and staff to host a delivery-only, virtual restaurant kitchen that operates within your restaurant. Earn additional revenue (at low or no cost) by offering these items to customers using a separate, virtual-only menu on DoorDash. DoorDash will help restaurants determine which established brand to license, then share approved recipes, train kitchen staff on preparation, provide supplier lists to get the right ingredients, and even recommend takeout containers for each dish. 

Francis Cui, owner of Bak Kung in Pleasanton, California, partnered with DoorDash to host a virtual restaurant kitchen that operates within his restaurant to increase sales. Bak Kung paired with Aria Korean Street Food to create a delivery-only restaurant selling Aria's dishes since both restaurants use similar ingredients and techniques. Since partnering with Aria and selling their dishes on DoorDash, Francis has generated approximately $12,000 in monthly revenue.

Francis Cui

Brand Licensing makes perfect sense to me. We have the capacity and the ingredients — I just make it and sell it on the DoorDash platform. It's like DoorDash is giving me free money.

Francis Cui , Co-Owner, Bak Kung

Partner with DoorDash today

With DoorDash, you can add an incremental revenue stream by selling a well-known brand's menu out of your kitchen with Brand Licensing. Not a DoorDash partner yet, or interested in opening your own delivery-only restaurant on DoorDash? List your business today.


Vonnie Williams
Vonnie Williams


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