At Quattro Foods we like to stay ahead of the curve. We follow trends in the food and hospitality sectors closely, to understand customers’ changing needs. We’re living in turbulent times and our industry is vulnerable to shifts in global events, and as a result there’s a new kid on the block.
Innovation and flexibility were key to food businesses surviving the pandemic, resulting in the acceleration of dark kitchens across the UK. Dark kitchen growth is the result of restaurants thinking outside the box and finding new ways of working in order to survive and thrive.
What are dark kitchens?
Also called ghost kitchens or virtual kitchens, this is the new way to do takeaway. With the rising cost of fuel and eating out, people are choosing to stay in more, but with supermarket price hikes, home cooking is not necessarily the most cost-efficient option, so the traditional takeaway is continuing to grow in popularity. Companies that never had a takeaway service previously are getting into customers’ homes, increasing sales and brand awareness through the use of popular delivery apps like Deliveroo and Uber Eats. And companies that always had takeaway services are using separate, off-site premises to serve their takeaway customers exclusively.
Delivery-only kitchens connect growing businesses with customers in this takeaway revolution. All they need is a physical location where kitchen staff can set up to provide delivery-only meals, and they can respond to the growing need for contactless food delivery.
Dark kitchens – the benefits
Dark kitchens work for the customer, increasing takeaway choices, and allowing them to get their favourite meals delivered to their door at the tap of an app. But what are the business benefits of this new way of working?
- Fewer overheads. Dark kitchens allow businesses to move orders off-site in facilities with much lower rents. Sometimes one or more restaurants rent the same space, making the proposition even more cost-effective.
- No size limit. A dark kitchen can exist in anything from a domestic garage or shipping container to a huge warehouse, all kitted out for food handling of course!
- Flexible locations. Dark kitchens can be set up more or less anywhere, from car parks to industrial estates.
Is there a downside?
Customers open up their delivery app and they get their dream meals delivered to their door. Convenient? Absolutely. Affordable? Everything’s expensive these days, but compared to eating out, or buying food to cook, it is a relatively affordable option. High quality? This is a trickier question. In theory the quality of the meal shouldn’t be compromised. In reality, the presentation or even taste may not be quite the same as the dishes you would be served in a restaurant. Dark kitchens use the same products from manufacturers and suppliers as their ‘real’ restaurants, so the end product should be identical, but when chefs work in different kitchens, an identical dish can’t always be guaranteed. But in our world, convenience is key and customers feel it’s a price worth paying.
It’s a new dawn
An estimated 750 dark kitchens are operating in the UK alone, and more are sprouting up across the US and Europe. Restaurants can offer delivery to more diners than ever before, and customers are getting excellent food to their kitchens, without leaving home. It feels like the industry has got this right and we’re looking forward to seeing what other changes await.