If you order food online, then there’s an increasing chance it won’t come from a traditional restaurant, and instead come from a dark kitchen.
This intriguing business model is bringing great flexibility to food service businesses, and also meeting a massive demand for takeout food, but what exactly is it and how can you make the most of it?
What are Dark Kitchens?
Dark kitchens are restaurants that cook food solely for takeout. Known by many names, including ghost kitchens, virtual kitchens, and cloud kitchens, this is a business model that can be very effective in the modern market.
Statistics show the food delivery market in the UK grew by 39% in the past three years, and this is likely to skyrocket in 2021. This makes delivery-only a tantalizing prospect for restaurants, as it allows them to cut back on many of their biggest expenses while still catering to a large market.
We may see dine in as the traditional form of restaurants, but it can be a costly operation. You’ve got rent to think about, you have to employ service staff to tend to customers, and you’re restricted by your restaurant’s capacity. All these things are taken out of the equation with a dark kitchen, meaning business owners can focus on attracting customers and cooking great food.
Online Delivery Boom - Making Dark Kitchens Possible
One of the key elements in the expansion of the food delivery market has been the rise of companies such as Just Eat, Deliveroo, and Uber Eats. These online platforms allow customers to browse a wide range of restaurants in their area, order in a few clicks, and have their meal delivered to their door.
For restaurants, this has opened up their offerings to a new audience, and the best part is; it’s convenient. All you do is wait for the order to come in, cook the food, and wait for someone to pick it up. There are minimal costs involved in this and minimal hassle, causing some restaurants to consider whether they need to offer a dine-in service at all.
The result has been entrepreneurs setting up dark kitchens which are designed to maximize the powers of the internet and the ability to easily deliver food.
With limited expenses, and without the pressures of offering an eat-in dining service, this makes dark kitchens incredibly agile. They can easily set up in new locations, change their branding, and mix up their menu as they see fit. This allows business owners to stay ahead of the market, and quickly react to major changes such as the pandemic.
Optimizing the Delivery Process
Platforms such as Just Eat might make it easy for customers to order online, but dark kitchens are still responsible for making sure great food gets to their customers. To do this, it’s important to have a highly optimized delivery process. If you’re cooking great food and it sits fifteen minutes for the delivery driver to pick it up, and spends another fifteen minutes cooling down on the journey, then your product is going to suffer as a consequence.
This is why delivery optimization is one of the key elements of dark kitchens. If you’re going to bring high-quality food to order-for-delivery, then it’s got to reach your customer in the same state it left your kitchen.
Being solely focussed on takeout allows these businesses to perfect the delivery process, and there are extra steps you can take to make sure it all goes smoothly.
Automated Lockers in Dark Kitchens
You’re busy cooking orders in the kitchen, and you’ve got a driver from Uber Eats picking up one order, someone from Deliveroo picking up another order, and the Just Eat guy is just walking in the door.
You need to have a system in place that allows couriers to easily pick up the right orders in seconds and get the food to the customer as quickly as possible.
But do you know what would be even better?
If you could keep food warm while it waited in a secure, convenient location for couriers to pick it up. Well, with automated lockers, this is precisely what you can do.
Automated lockers can be placed anywhere in your building, and sync with your order processing system to facilitate smart delivery. You cook the order, put it in the heated (or cooled if needed) locker, scan the order number, and a QR code is sent out to the courier who can simply walk in, scan the code, and grab the food.
Not only do the heated lockers keep food fresher for longer, but vital time isn’t lost as couriers search for the correct order.
If you can get the order processing part of a dark kitchen right, then it opens up a lot of possibilities.
We’re used to seeing cheaper, more traditional meals being delivered, but there’s no reason why it can’t be done for more gourmet restaurants as well. You’re never going to get the food to the customer as quickly as you would if they were sitting in your restaurant, but you can significantly speed it up.
There’s no reason why people shouldn’t eat top-quality food at home, and there’s no reason you can’t give it to them. Dark kitchens are a way to achieve this, and with automated lockers, chefs can ensure their food is getting to their customers in a much more controlled way that ensures higher quality.
Takeaways (No Pun Intended)
Dark kitchens might be a relatively new phenomenon, but this business model is becoming more and more popular, and for good reason.
We have the tools to bring amazing food straight to people’s doorstep, and there’s a huge market for just that. By utilizing technology such as automated lockers, restaurants can significantly lower their costs while opening themselves up to a huge market.
If you can get on top of the order processing, and combine efficiency with great marketing, and culinary excellence, then you’ve got a recipe for success.