If you mentioned ghost kitchens or virtual brands ten years ago, people would think you’re talking about a theme restaurant or some flashy new concept coined by an influencer. Yet with customer experience-centric trends accelerated by the pandemic, ghost kitchens and virtual brands are here to stay – and grow.

So, what are they? A ghost kitchen is a professional kitchen that prepares to-go-only meals, sometimes for mutiple brands, and they don’t offer an actual storefront or customer seating. A virtual brand is a restaurant that exists only on third-party delivery apps - owners use kitchens in traditional restaurants to create a menu specifically designed for delivery customers.

If you’re a ghost kitchen or virtual brand, how do you optimize your listing to attract new customers? Most search engines are still targeting "near me" search results based on brick-and-mortar restaurants with physical addresses, and you want to make sure you’re set up to rank alongside your competitors.

In short: how do you find a ghost?

Since Google My Business is the top driver for local search SEO, we’ve put together a list of GMB best practices to make your business pop.

1.       Ensure all your information is correct.

This one might go without saying, but as you grow, it’s easy to forget to make updates. Customers will be frustrated if your contact information, delivery hours, or menu are outdated, which can lead them to your competition.

2.       Have a separate phone number for each location.

This goes hand-in-hand with our first best practice. Listing a separate phone number per location ensures your customers can get in touch with the location of their choosing on the first try, instead of dialing a central number and navigating a phone menu.

3.      Own your online ordering.

Do you partner with GrubHub? UberEats? Do you have first-party online ordering and a private network of delivery drivers? Tie your GMB listing to your preferred online ordering link – this is the “order online” button you’ll see in Google results. How easy is that for your customer?! One search, one click, and they’re already ordering from you.

4.       Set clear expectations for your guests.

If you don’t have a physical storefront, you probably don’t want hungry guests showing up to your location, and then getting inevitably disappointed. There are a couple things you can do to prevent this:

Make sure your listing is very clear about the nature of your establishment – if you’re delivery or third-party only, don’t be shy to say so!

Create a service area. This may not be for everyone and depends on capacity and staffing, but if you decide you’d like to offer a little extra, you could add a walk-up order and pickup window. Not only will it differentiate you from other ghost restaurants, but it gives you invaluable face time with your customers.

5.       Make sure you're well labeled.

As of now, Google requires proof of a brand's existence at an address before they'll verify the listing, even for virtual brands. If you’re offering on-site pickup, include clear signage around the pickup area listing which virtual brands are available for pickup at your location. And tying back to tip #1 – update, update, update! If you remove or add a virtual brand, swap out that sign.

6.       Manage your Reviews.

Ghost kitchen operators are often nervous about local listings, because they don’t just want reviews from the launch period when they’re still figuring things out. So when you get a local review like that, how do you respond? Listening, positivity, and SEO are your friends. Address the reviewer’s main concern, question, or feedback so they know you’re listening, thank them for a great review or ask how you can make their experience better, and get as many search terms in there as possible. Some examples:

We’re so happy you enjoyed your birthday takeout! Next time you’ll have to try our famous brownie.

I’m sorry to hear your order was cold when you picked it up – burgers should always be hot! We’d love to make it up to you with a free delivery and a couple appetizers.

7.       Lean on the experts.

Don’t have time to think about manual updates? Marqii can take the stress out of managing your Google My Business listing by automating your updates straight from your POS data. It’s a shameless plug, but we love what we do – and we love seeing our customers gain the time and freedom to do what they do best!

Ask us how we can help today.