Tipped: How to Start a Ghost Kitchen

2020 may not seem like it was the perfect year to open a restaurant, but Warren Satchell and Chef Melvin “Boots” Johnson had the recipe for success.That “recipe” was their biscuits, and amidst the rush to pivot and adapt in the food and beverage industry to survive the pandemic, the Harlem Biscuit Company emerged.

“It started with making biscuits in [Boots’] garage, and after feeding frontline workers and addressing the community’s needs, he quickly realized that he was on to something,” says Warren Satchell, co-founder of Harlem Biscuit Company. “And so from there we really took the opportunity to [say] I think there’s something here. We had had a number of different conversations about our responsibility during the pandemic. In the wake of other activities such as George Floyd, social unrest, racial injustice, we really started thinking about impact and what our impact would be, specific to the communities that we live, operate, and also thrive in. And so, that’s essentially how the biscuit company was born.”

Harlem Biscuit Company, a fast-casual speakeasy-style restaurant in the Historic Gaslamp District in Harlem, New York, started as an online-only business from their garage during the height of the pandemic in 2020 — and from there things only went up. Here are the top tips from Warren on how to get started with an online-first food and beverage business.

3 tips from Warren Satchell of Harlem Biscuit Company on running an online-first food & beverage business:

  1. Know what it will cost to bring your business to life: “It’s absolutely critical to be clear on tangible costs. It’s equally critical to be aware of some of those, like intangible costs, and understanding truly when you’re met with a product that you’re passionate about and when you’re met with a dream and you’re met with a vision, what it takes to bring all of that to life.”
  2. Word-of-mouth marketing: “Those really are your frontline PR people. So I’d like to think that really the community did the PR for us, they did the talking, they’re the ones who got the word out. They’re the ones who kept coming back to see us. Those are the ones whose friends and family came to visit. They brought friends and family under the premise of, ‘you got to try this before you leave.’ And so, there’s so much about us and our success that really is attributed to the community and really is just attributed to word of mouth.”
  3. Think about the customer journey: “You always wanna put your mind through the lens of the customer, and how you can kind of eliminate friction in the customer journey. You know in research, you come across all these different restaurants, ghost kitchens, et cetera, with these amazing ordering platforms. And they could be as innovative as innovative can be. I think the biggest thing that we really should be leaning into as restaurateurs, as entrepreneurs, as business owners, is really thinking about the customer journey and how you eliminate friction from that.”

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