With consumers staying home a lot more and food business owners looking for new ways to reach their customers with ease, a new food concept was born… Say welcome to the dark kitchen!
The production units are functioning spaces that have been designed to cater to the food delivery market alone, offering a convenient and efficient solution for both the business and the customer.
But, what are dark kitchens, how have they risen to glory and how do they benefit food business owners? Let’s take a look.
What are dark kitchens? One space, many names
Firstly, to not confuse, you might see the terms ghost kitchen, cloud kitchen and virtual kitchen referenced in this piece. Yes, these are all the same concepts and all dark kitchens.
The kitchens to rent are a physical location where local food businesses can prep and cook delivery service only meals, typically sold via third-party apps such as JustEat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats. Ghost kitchens don’t have a physical storefront that allows customers to eat in or even collect their food orders; delivery drivers are the middlemen between the restaurant cooking the food and the customers tucking in.
Dark kitchens are typically spacious units kitted out with hygienic floors and surfaces, fitted with inbuilt ventilation and drainage and built to meet food hygiene standards. Oftentimes, the monthly rental price includes the cost of utilities, too!
The factors above anchor the idea that dark kitchens have the user’s convenience at heart. Just bring the vital cooking equipment, your workforce, and start creating. Renting a dark kitchen is a highly efficient and cost-effective way of getting your delectable treats out into the world!
COVID19 and the takeaway rising
Before 2020 and all that we know about that tumultuous year, app takeaways made up a very minor 8% of the UK’s food service industry, due to grow to a staggering 22.2% in 2022.
Since the pandemic, London restaurants began selling an extra 900,000 meals each week using apps and online ordering platforms such as Deliveroo, UberEats and Just Eat being the three most popular.
As brick-and-mortar restaurant brands had no option other than to close, creativity took hold and suddenly, what were once dine-in restaurants, was now offering limited menus, prepared meals, DIY meal kits, grocery boxes and at-home cocktails. And, it wasn’t just restaurateurs who turned to delivery apps to keep their businesses afloat and thriving through the pandemic. Convenience stores and supermarkets saw the competition and had to level up their offerings to the at-home customer. It even brought about the rise of dedicated on-demand grocery delivery companies, such as Gorillas, Weezy, Zapp or Getir.
Although the restaurant industry is now open for dine-in guests, consumer habits have certainly altered over the last two years, and it seems that the need for the dark kitchen model is still as firm as ever; set to be worth £2.9 billion by the end of 2022!
Benefits of cloud kitchens for food businesses
The dark kitchen business model regularly receives praise from its users and the whole industry, which is no surprise as renting a delivery-only kitchen has a long list of benefits for businesses of all sizes and types;
- Lower rental costs – no need to provide seating areas
- Reduced overheads – no serving staff, utilities are often included
- Kitchen space designed and built to food safety standards
- Not tied into any excessive contract lengths
- Freedom of the commercial kitchen design and layout
- Typically on the same site as cold storage rooms for convenience
- Easily change commercial kitchen location at the end of your term
- Surrounded by other foodie experts; great for advice and a chat!
- Choose a location based on the food delivery radius that you want
- Increase capacity to cater to the booming food delivery market
- Space to experiment; menu, concepts and brand
- Serve multiple demographics; prepare many brands in one kitchen
Dark kitchens are the future of food
Dark kitchens are the future of food, and there are a few reasons why we believe this. Firstly, the ghost kitchen concept has made it easier for start-ups and small local businesses to enter the industry thanks to the financial benefits, so if anything, kitchen rentals are becoming even more popular post-pandemic.
Secondly, food businesses or restaurant owners who previously operated more traditionally or with a high street store have realised the benefits that come with a virtual restaurant and takeaway meals, so why switch back?!