This blog post explains dark kitchens — one of the newest concepts in the food and beverage industry — that every f&b business owner should be aware of.
Our consumer society progresses at a pace never seen before, and COVID-19 also transformed how we approach dining. In recent years, the f&b industry integrated quite a few exciting dining options to be mindful of.
The newest kids on the block right now are dark kitchens, or as some might call them, ghost, virtual or cloud kitchens/restaurants. Their presence disrupted the industry, and they've grown 300% faster in the last five years than traditional dining-in concepts.
The term is used for kitchens that don't have a physical restaurant area — even if they are open, you can't walk into them because they only prepare food for delivery and/or pickup.
During the pandemic, many restaurants and franchises created sub-brands to retain their employees and try their hand at something other than their usual image. Some would step out into the light later (hence the term 'dark' kitchen) and open a restaurant, while others might stay with delivery or pickup options.
Another reason behind this new structure is the change in consumer habits and generations. The growing number of food ordering apps operated by third parties created indifference toward a particular restaurant's dine-in area or ambience. Also, Gen Y and Z (who are becoming more and more the majority of consumers) crave independence, convenience and a fast pace during the ordering process and affordable, good quality food at the touch of a button.
Virtual restaurants operate with the shortest delivery times since they are primarily located in outer districts, warehouses, or containers. While setting up, they only need to consider the high-level of kitchen technology and the ease of delivery, with no need for service staff and design elements. Due to these facilities' low investment, rent, and operating costs, offering competitive prices — while maintaining quality — is much easier.
Another great advantage of a dark kitchen concept is experimenting with different menus. Since these restaurants communicate to and serve their clientele via their app or ordering webpage, there are no physical limits to what can be prepared. The concept is highly technology-oriented: most processes are automated for efficient operation, so transformation takes just a few clicks instead of a new design and campaign.
The same goes for marketing options: the data-driven solutions equip the units with the tools to analyze and research customer habits, leading to real-time tailored and targeted marketing campaigns.
For a smaller restaurant, entering the delivery and catering market allows the owners to do test runs to potentially explode in the industry without making significant changes to their existing facility. Let’s say you run an Italian pasta restaurant, but you’d like to experiment with pizza for pickup and delivery — you already have most of the equipment and ingredients figured out. Larger restaurants and chains can also optimize their operations without damaging the reputation of their dining-in experience. In both cases, a perfect synergy can be created for a seamless operation of digital solutions: restaurants large and small can rely on EasyOrder’s partners such as Otter, Deliverect, or RushHour to integrate their online orders right into their existing POS system or app.
While there are some downsides to this shiny new concept — the loss of personal contact with the consumer, increased stress levels of employees, and narrowed options because of delivery optimization — the benefits seem to outweigh them.
However: even if you eliminate these risks, one threat still needs mitigation: the commission fee attached to each order when you partner up with a third-party delivery platform. Depending on the platform, this fee ranges between 15-30% and could even increase if you opt for advertising (+3-5%) on them.
|Increased demand for takeaway and pickup options||Environmental implications of packaging materials||Your technological edge will outpace your competition|
|Technology and data-driven to facilitate quick adjustments||Needs marketing and data processing experience||The powerful EasyOrder AI will do the analysis for you|
|More flexibility in experimenting with different concepts||Narrow options because of delivery optimisation||Our backend provides pick-up options|
|No need to finance a dining area||No dining experience||Your business will always be in your customers’s pockets|
|Inviting for Gen Z and Y||Older generations might avoid such a concept||Your customers can always rely on your direct ordering webpage|
|Possibility to maintain competitive prices||The customer experience is risked by delivery performance||Thanks to the zero commission fee, your prices will be even more competitive than other dark kitchens|
|Increased budget for marketing||Dependence on delivery solutions involving commission fees||Zero commission fee — just a fixed monthly price|
|No need for service staff||No personal contact with the consumer||We integrated push and splash notifications, shop messages and even newsletter options to stay in touch with your customers|
|Low-risk investment||Loss of customer loyalty||Our loyalty system will retain and encourage your existing customers|
|Lower fixed costs||Reduced impulse buys||You can set up campaigns with just a touch of a button|
|Ability to collaborate with other entrepreneurs||No shop front, no footfall||Your business will always be discoverable|
But don't let the high commission fees discourage you from going off-premise. The EasyOrder solution is your golden ticket to our rocketship heading to the stellar system of zero commission fees!
We will help you design and maintain a revenue-generating business model by providing your ordering web page and app that gathers consumer data and offers constant coverage for your business through marketing materials and a user-friendly backend.
Eliminate the most significant risk of your dark kitchen concept by optimizing your online presence and ordering system via EasyOrder. Besides a zero commission plan, you'll get the ability to invest more time and money in your core business.
Dark kitchens within the EasyOrder family
- The DoubleYou Kitchen delivers so much more than food on your doorstep – this concept is all about fresh and high quality ingredients, complemented with their own Spotify playlist and limited edition artpieces!
- Casper is a modern day food hall for hungry people who just can’t decide what to eat, thanks to their large collection of virtual restaurants, with a strong focus on sustainability and supporting local suppliers.
- Viki Online brings you authentic Vietnamese cuisine from several locations in Belgium. They are fresh, fast and growing faster than rice terraces in Mu Cang Chai!
- Urban Food Market is an online foodcourt founded by stubborn professionals who won't compromise on quality. Besides fresh and exciting ingredients, they always throw in a pinch of love and care before delivery.
Dark kitchens outside of our family
- Mission Masala is all about banging Indian food in – and here comes the trick – Antwerp and Ghent! Their desi soulfood celebrates the staple of Indian culture: feasting together!
- Popchew helps creators to build, launch and grow their own local food brands in a matter of weeks across the U.S. They house brands such as BitCoin Pizza or Wing SZN and many more!
- Taster works with renowned food visionaries to design delivery-only menus that fuse innovation, quality, and taste, involving chefs, influencers, or their in-house culinary experts. No matter which brand you choose, they'll all have one key thing in common: passion and obsession with unforgettable street food.
- Curbfood is bringing yummy back to the tummy! Besides their hilarious skills in copywriting, their ambition to food experiences is next level, fully tailored to home delivery.
- Kitchenclub is developed by professionals for professionals. Their products combine convenience with quality and innovation to enable you as a professional to create qualitative, surprising food solutions that make your customers ask for more!