Into the Food… The Dark Kitchen, the underground catering world behind food deliveries

the Dark Kitchen, the underground catering world behind food deliveries

Two years ago, the popularity of (home and office) food deliveries led to the birth of a whole new concept called the Dark Kitchen.
A growing number of consumers are ordering their meals via delivery apps like Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Taster and others. Most don’t even know that their meals are prepared in a Dark Kitchen.
So what’s behind these “Dark”, “ghost“ or “virtual” kitchens? The concept is the same regardless of the name. You won’t be able to eat the food at the point of sale, or access a dining room with waiter service, because these kitchens only prepare food.

So what are the advantages? There are no waiters, no pretty premises or rent on premium locations (some of these kitchens are in former car parks). A just-in-time production model where food is made to order, more flexible hours than a restaurant, a highly diverse food offering and the possibility of managing one or more brands simultaneously as well as own brands.
Some have even used the available data to their advantage, to create their own offers in response to demand and to produce food at the times it is wanted. Be aware that this kind of solution requires a multitude of digital tools, but it also means that it’s possible to launch or close a brand (if it’s unsuccessful, in line with major events or trends, etc), to create a delivery service for an existing brand without jeopardizing an actual restaurant (by using a different structure or managed space, teams, etc) or to offer a new brand to an existing customer database. First you need to attract clients, then get them to try things again and again. Digital technology can be used to enhance customer loyalty. Offers can be changed if necessary. All of this works and starts to generate profits beyond a certain scale as considerable investment in digital technology is required. Dark Kitchens will always manage to adapt faster than traditional restaurants to changing trends and habits, Key Opinion Leaders and any health crises that may arise. At times, Dark Kitchens will act as logistical hubs, managing food for several brands that focus exclusively on food delivery services. At others, they will be working for brands that want to speed up their delivery services while not disrupting in-restaurant customer experiences (impact on kitchen or dining room staff).

And the disadvantages? Customer experiences revolve around apps (an advantage for some generations), automatic distribution points or delivery services (often multi-brand), messages on flyers or menus. It also extends to packaging, which is supposed to be waterproof but that often isn’t, or that is ill-suited to being transported by bike or motorbike, and the disposal / recycling / washing of packaging. Marketing departments have their work cut out assuring and reassuring clients of the flavoursome nature, nutritional value, hygienic properties or value for money of the food they purchase.
We feel that customer experiences also encompass the Dark Kitchens themselves and that we need to work on the moment the food is actually delivered as well as the speed with which it can be ordered, contact with the client prior to delivery, its delivery, the brand’s e-reputation and the possibility to Instagram about it once you have eaten the food. A whole new type of restaurant has well and truly arrived, together with its own customer base.

A few facts and figures on food deliveries to think about for once the lockdown ends (these were the figures for 2020 prior to the lockdown).
3 orders are received every second. The average spend is €16 at lunchtime and €17 in the evening (in 2019)
82% are home orders, 16% are office orders
Peak times, which account for 74% of all orders are, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
4% of consumers only order from the office, 37% order exclusively from home and 59% a combination of both.
Optimal delivery time: 1 hour
In Europe, 80% of users remain loyal users of a delivery platform.
Thanks to Gira, Snacking, Zepros and FoodServiceVision for their figures and information.