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Dark Kitchen: Complete guide to 2021


He delivery has completely changed how customers interact with restaurants. What seemed impossible before is now a reality: restaurants without tables and without guests.

No, It is not the disastrous result of the closures imposed by the administration. We talk about the famous Dark Kitchen for delivery or Ghost Kitchens. A recent business model that is being accelerated by the coronavirus crisis and new digital consumer habits of customers.

It is estimated that more than one 25% orders online food delivery are managed by this type of premises. This percentage will only grow in the short and medium term, so knowing all the details about the Dark Kitchen is the objective of this guide.

Contents list:

1.- What are Dark Kitchen or Ghost Kitchens?

Ghost kitchens, blind kitchens, virtual kitchens, dark kitchens, dark kitchens, ghost kitchens, virtual kitchens, cloud kitchens, digital restaurants, restaurants delivery-only… Different names with which the same concept is called: a restaurant with only a kitchen and a collection area for delivery people.

In this way the digital transformation restaurants makes the traditional living room evolve one step further. The philosophy direct-to-consumer; that is to say, from the kitchen to the consumer's home.

The restaurant spaces are converted into a place to prepare and pack elaborate dishes. Mainly associated with the fast food and casual segments but always with the sight set on the delivery. All the surface and furniture is intended for the activity that intrinsically adds value to the restoration: Cook.

2.- How does a dark kitchen work?

The basis of the operation of the dark kitchen or ghost kitchens lies in the learned pillars of the collaborative economy. Broadly speaking, it is about the application of this reality to the field of restaurants. At Millennials Café, a company with interests in this segment both in Madrid and in the rest of Spain, they define it as a space of «coworking but hospitality-oriented».

According to the version English from Wikipedia, is a food service business that serves customers exclusively through delivery based on phone orders or online food orders.

3.- What types of dark kitchen or ghost kitchens exist?

However, not all ghost kitchens are created equal. There are obvious differences that reside in their mode of implementation:

  • The new investment ghost kitchens start with a significant outlay by the entrepreneur. Acquire the soil, building the facilities and installing the furniture involves a cost not very different from that of a traditional restaurant. It is the responsibility of the promoter that the design, the menu, he marketing and the technology conform to the operation mode of the dark kitchen or phantom kitchen. The risk is very high but the low fixed costs justify these constructions thanks to their enormous competitiveness.
  • The remodeling of traditional restaurants into dark kitchen or ghost kitchens it also carries its own expenses. Not only does it require a restaurant overhaul, the hotelier has to adapt to the new reality. It allows to have a good starting point in those restaurants with a high volume of digital business, especially in fast food niches usually associated with delivery. The kitchen can serve your own brand and also cook for others, making the most of the infrastructure.
  • The cook as a service is inspired by SaaS to create a new business model in the restaurant. This becomes a supplier for other restoration brands by using cutting-edge technological tools. An example: Ghoster (or your alternative Wow Bao) is a data analysis company that works with ghost kitchens to indicate when, how and where to sell certain dishes that they deem profitable at all times. It is the easiest way to launch a virtual brand. In return, they depend too much on external technology companies.
  • The shared or rented kitchens, they are the most widespread model today. Large companies are responsible for the huge upfront costs to build first-class kitchens in strategic locations that favor distribution. It is a model that is not without risk but is very affordable.

Otherwise, ghost kitchens are not much different from traditional restaurants. It is true that there are no rooms specially designed to receive guests, but the rest of the activities are carried out normally. Exactly the same as would happen in a restaurant kitchen.

4.- Advantages and disadvantages of the Dark Kitchen

Lolly Michaud is a hospitality professional who worked for years in a catering service catering. It was much easier for her to launch her virtual Hawaiian food brand Poke Kitchen with Glovo Cook Rooms. The paperwork was solved in just over a week. After a year in operation, it carries out 2000 monthly sales and study how to build your own ghost kitchen.

Lolly's experience is not anecdotal. The advantages of dark kitchen are extensive. Seeing that the model really works is one of the reasons why more and more restaurants dare to try it. Pioneer restaurants serve as a reference for those who enter second, third or successive instances.

The first virtual restaurants were discarded projects, condemned to oblivion. He coronavirus and the accelerated transfer of the business on-premise al off-premise has caused these plans to be re-evaluated. Since consumer confidence is unlikely to recover in the short term, even post pandemic, hoteliers are migrating to ghost kitchens or supplementing their restaurants with them.

The following points summarize the advantages of ghost kitchens:

  • Eliminate unaffordable fixed costs at a time when face-to-face meals are less volatile in the short term.
  • They allow to better segment the target audience, enter the market with riskier brands and promote kitchen products without great need for branding physical. It is optional to inform the customer that it is operated as a ghost kitchen.
  • Capacity is not limited by the physical space available. Thus, there is no direct cost associated with expanding the service. This can be expanded with a low investment.
  • Lower rental costs, furniture, decor, provisioning and salaries. The no need for own or internal waiters implies an important competitive advantage.
  • Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. Ander Castillo, responsible for the Cook Rooms of Glovo, comments that the «dark kitchens They are designed to improve the efficiency of restaurants that in their own premises are saturated with so many home delivery orders. They also allow brands to expand into previously uncovered areas and even use them as a central kitchen ». Glovo's own blog relapses on the message: «The key to ghost kitchens lies in investing only in what is fair and necessary. A kitchen is needed, quality products and ingredients, a good channel of diffusion and a great logistics operation ».
  • Excellent synergy with technological solutions for taking orders, its traceability and delivery. Coordination with external delivery companies is direct.
  • They optimize the amortization of specialized furniture that does not remain constantly in use. This is shared between the different brands that operate in the space.
  • Restaurants can outsource your options for cast or takeaway thanks to an associated virtual kitchen. This avoids inconvenience in premises open to the public.
  • Interaction with the final consumer is eminently digital. The automation of processes causes a reduction in delivery times and an increase in customer satisfaction. Jaime Martínez de Velasco, owner of Cuyna, comment about it: "Restaurateurs will have more and more premises in main streets with a lot of traffic and then kitchens that allow them to be very agile, very fast and very good at home delivery ».
  • Shared kitchens operate with a single license. Any brand can be covered under a license expressly without long bureaucratic procedures.
  • They suppose a emerging market. Hoteliers who react early to this trend will enjoy a more resistant and robust business, as well as enough flexibility to adapt to the challenges that come.

Nobody questions that technological advances in the hospitality industry, especially in the segment of delivery, be the future. However, the restorer has to evaluate the pros and cons of virtual kitchens to discover if it is a model that suits their needs. So that, It is also advisable to review what are the Disadvantages of dark kitchen or ghost kitchens:

  • Data ownership and the relationship with the client in most cases depends on the aggregator or digital partner of the platform with which it works, which implies a high risk and dependence on these digital agents.
  • Outdoor riders or waiters usually belong to an external agency, which makes it impossible to have total control over the product and service that the end customer receives, as if it happens in a traditional restaurant.
  • Is impossible to return to traditional mode of operation without a huge capital investment.
  • Industrial espionage grows. companies like CloudKitchens collect and analyze big data from customers of cooperating virtual brands, probably to launch your own initiatives later.
  • The organic traffic of pedestrians attracted by the facade of the restaurant or passage area is sacrificed.
  • Interaction with the target audience becomes much more difficult as mastery of advanced marketing and digital communication strategies is required (marketing online, social networks, chatbots…).
  • Competition in the segment is cutthroat and requires advanced knowledge of the technology available to the hospitality industry to succeed.
  • It is a very new model that is accelerated, requires initiative on the part of the entrepreneur. This will have to study the proposal in detail before launching it.
  • Clashes with neighborhood associations. Ghost kitchens are sometimes located in residential areas where the rental price is lower. Quiet neighborhoods are affected by odors and the bustle of delivery men, and defend their interests accordingly.
  • There is certain reluctance on the part of consumers. They especially fear that food safety is at stake even though it is not the case. As they comment from Cuyna, the "sanitary, hygiene and urban requirements are the same and even higher for a business of these characteristics". However, this message has not yet permeated the population..
  • Risks in the change of regulation, being a model that has evolved very quickly, it is very likely that the regulation of both the production process, marketing and distribution may vary in the coming months, with the logical impact on the income statement.

5.- National and international context of the Dark Kitchen

Before the pandemic, the forecasts for the growth of the delivery ya eran halagadores. The numbers that were handled in the past have skyrocketed with the arrival of confinements and anti-COVID-19 restrictions.

Analysts estimate that the US food delivery market will be worth 155 000 million dollars in 2023. This equates to a compound annual growth rate of 11.51%.

Although the rate of appearance of the dark kitchen or ghost kitchens is unusual, we are far from touching the ceiling, maybe we are only at the beginning. The number of stores under this methodology is expected to multiply by ten in the current decade.. This assumption contributes to the fact that there is still much room for growth in the world of delivery.

The consultant Boston Consulting Group estimates that the market penetration of the delivery It is placed around the 30% and that there is more of 100 000 million dollars on the table still. The firm also points out that the distribution of the luxury or author kitchen has been explored very poorly for now.

Euromonitor is much more forceful when reading the future of this restaurant model. According to their analysts, ghost kitchens could move a trillion dollars a year in 2030.

The advantages of dark kitchen or ghost kitchens would help to capture not inconsiderable percentages of other digital channels: a 15% of packaged snack sales, a 25% of the food on-premise or on-site, a 30% of ingredient kits, a 35% of prepared meals, a 50% of take out food and a 50% of the sales of the drive-thru or pick up in the car.

5.1.- Dark Kitchen or ghost kitchens in the world

The adoption of ghost kitchens is driven by multiple players: home delivery companies, hotel groups, cooperatives and independent restaurateurs.

by Dash has launched the virtual kitchens DoorDash Kitchens. It also promotes a social initiative that seeks to help restaurants run by immigrants and refugees in the United States.. THE. with adapted rates. Is about Kitchens Without Borders, a division of the previously mentioned ghost kitchens.

The distributor US Foods in the United States has inaugurated US Foods Ghost Kitchens, a service that offers resources and consulting for hoteliers to set up their own ghost kitchens.

If the workers of the North American union are not enough with advice, ShiftPixy, an incubator of start-ups specialized in ghost kitchens, takes care of helping its partners with physical spaces and relevant technology.

Something similar offers Franklin Junction. This company is in charge of managing underused kitchens and partially assigning them to virtual restaurants.

Also Zuul, a technology company that promotes the model of ghost kitchens; Alt/Grub/Faction, a shared kitchen space in Los Angeles (California) designed by Eric Greenspan; the similar ones Kitchen United and Colony, also Californian, that host respectively 20 Y 30 different hospitality brands; FAT Brands, a multi-brand franchise exploring the ghost kitchen model with Johnny Rockets; etc.

Some initiatives are much larger. Reef Kitchens appeared in June 2019 in Miami with the aim of transforming disused parking lots into restaurants. Today have 4500 kitchen vessels the size of a container multimodal in parkings of all country. Each of these cameras serves several brands with diverse products.

Others seek global expansion. Within SBE Entertainment, a hotel management group, the C3 unit to use the dark kitchen model or ghost kitchens with their own restoration brands, as well as hosting establishments and renowned chefs from around the world. Dani García, former restaurant with three Michelin stars, and the television Jose Andres, always committed to social causes, collaborate with C3 in this project. Thanks to the enormous scale they have negotiated reduced rates on delivery platforms such as Grubhub and DoorDash.

The dark kitchen or ghost kitchens reach even the most remote cities despite the novelty of the idea. In Dubai (United Arab Emirates), the emerging company iKcon operates a ghost kitchen franchise and has raised 10 million dollars in financing thanks to interested investors. Its aim is to dominate the Middle East market.

And of course, in Spain ghost kitchens start to make headlines, but this phenomenon deserves a separate section.

5.2.- Dark Kitchen or ghost kitchens in Spain

In our country, delivery companies are playing a fundamental role in the implementation of virtual restaurants. Glovo, Deliveroo, JustEat Y Uber Eats have interests in this segment.

The gastronomic incubator Baking has properties prepared to install blind kitchens. Glovo rents them out to sublet them to interested hoteliers. With the name of Cook Rooms, one of these rooms is located in the neighborhood of Les Corts (Barcelona). They have twelve places and most are already occupied. Glovo is interested in this investment since the partner businesses sign a exclusive contract in the distribution with commissions of the 40%. Hoteliers capitulate given low initial and operating costs.

Deliveroo also contemplates the possibility of opening Deliveroo Edition, the virtual kitchens of this company, in Barcelona. At the moment it has 2 points in Madrid and 200 distributed all over the world, with special emphasis on the United Kingdom, which was where they began to test the model.

Uber Eats still do not have any service similar to that of its competitors in Spain, but according to the internal investigations of the portal, it estimates that there are around 125 virtual brands operating in Spain from your application.

One of the original founders of Uber has it clearer. Through your British company Cooklane, Travis Kalanick, former CEO of the mobility company, used part of the 400 million dollars received from Arab investors to mount a complex of 38 ghost kitchens in Madrid's Prosperidad neighborhood.

Through these proposals, delivery companies seek to have greater control over the sector and concentrate new openings under their umbrella. They are not the only ones interested in doing it.

The German group Keat has found a vein in Barcelona. They only have three kitchens there but the turnover already exceeds what they receive in Germany or the Netherlands. It helps that these ghost kitchens are highly robotic and allow the delivery of orders in just six minutes. But it helps even more that this «market is growing at a rate of 25-30% per quarter », as indicated by Joaquín Mencía, one of the managers of Keatz in Spain.

The demographic explosion of ghost kitchens is such that the first construction company specialized in this type of facilities. Jaime Martínez de Velasco, founder of Cuyna, raised the Deliveroo Editions of Madrid. Plans to operate in the neighborhoods of Manuel Becerra, Arganzuela and Chamartín thanks to locals with 18 ghost kitchens. It also has a branch in Valencia and explores the viability of the project in Barcelona, where the competition is already fierce. Such a recent phenomenon undoubtedly holds interesting surprises in the region..

6.- Examples of dark kitchen in Spain

Ghost kitchens are already found throughout our geography.

  • 6.1.- Dark Kitchen Barcelona

There is no doubt that Barcelona is abuzz with ghost kitchens. These are some of those that operate there: Freshperts Group (sushi, poke and mexican), Kobi (burgers gourmet), Hanai (sushi and poke), Momachirashi (oriental cuisine), Gay (chicken delicacies), Cottonfish (Japanese food) Y Texano Mexican Grill (Mexican food) as part of Food Haven; Y Lobster and Roll (lobster sandwiches), Grandma Fit (dietary options) O Sports Bar (italiano) and others within Cook Room.

  • 6.2.- Dark Kitchen Madrid

Madrid is the second community with the most initiatives in this category. Apart from those already mentioned, it should be noted Quilicuá Delivery (national cuisine and variety), MX Roberto Ruiz (Mexican food), Tuk Tuk Asian Street Food (asian street food), Jaudable (healthy fast food), Foodcraft (comfort food for munchies), AnaLú (cake shop) and all included in Cuyna.

Especially noteworthy are the last two examples, managed by Juan Beltrán and Juan Diego Gaitán, well they achieve 340 home delivery every weekend with Foodcraft. This has encouraged them to expand with the help of blogger Ana Lucía Martínez and her desserts..

  • 6.3.- Dark Kitchen Valencia

Valencia also has a good number of virtual brands thanks to Cuyna Y Mamua Kitchen, in collaboration with the Lanzadera incubator. Some examples are Pepito´s Burger, Le Kooq, Guilty Cookies, Poke yes Y Taxi Angus.

  • 6.4.- Dark Kitchen Zaragoza

Zaragoza is another point where ghost kitchens begin to emerge. La Traditional has split into two virtual brands to offer a better service: The Italian-Argentine Cantina and La Molletería. The same has happened in the kitchen of the Boulevardier, which now produces dishes under the brands La Vegana and Leche de tres tigres.. Finally, Vaquer Group has put in value the facilities of the The Fleur de Lis to launch a virtual fast food brand called Pretty celia.

These are just some of the examples of the more than one hundred virtual brands that operate with ghost kitchens in Spain. A number that, although considerable, Will pale compared to what it will be in a few years.

It is also important to highlight the incubators and the different spaces equipped with Dark Kitchens as they begin to appear all over the country, specially highlighted Baking in Barcelona, Booh! In Malaga, Madrid Ghost Kitchens, the Cook Room Glovo or the Deliveroo Editions.

7.- Curso de Dark Kitchen y Delivery Marketing

In the Diego Coquillat School the Curso Online de Delivery Marketing y Dark Kitchen whose objective is to know and take advantage of the new opportunities that technology and digitization represent for the hospitality sector. This requires mastering the techniques, the tools and identify the benefits that these new challenges generate.

He course is taught by Diego Coquillat, through live online classes, and provides the knowledge, the techniques and the best tools to carry out a delivery marketing strategy associated with a Dark Kitchen that guarantees the viability and profitability of this type of business.

If you want more information about the course you can click on the following link:

Curso Online de Delivery Marketing y Dark Kitchen

The Diego Coquillat school also shares a free newsletter where it compiles the latest news about Dark Kitchen, you can subscribe in the following link:

Newsletter about the latest news from Dark Kitchen

About the Author

Article by the editorial team of DiegoCoquillat.com. It has professionals both in the field of hospitality, gastronomy and tourism, and new technologies and innovation.



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