The Dark Kitchen: Is Food Losing?

This label is not very popular, however those known as “dark kitchens” or even “ghost kitchens” are getting an increasing market share in the restaurant sector. The phenomenon of these kitchens geared almost exclusively toward selling home-delivered meals is primarily urban, with orders placed through apps, most famously Deliveroo or Uber Eats.

This dark kitchen market is global and therefore very dynamic. According to a study conducted by in 2019, it represented 5% of commercial restaurant services. It should be noted that China and India are the most developed markets, with 7,500 and 3,500 of these so-called “ghost” structures, respectively. At the end of 2020, France had more than 1,500 dark kitchens on the Uber Eats app and more than 500 on the Deliveroo app. This is also enough to direct this business towards the franchise system.

As the Ron half of the Federation of Industries and Dance describes it, the battle is one which in its time opposed taxis to taxis, and opened the way to the veneration of society.

Since habits related to commuting have evolved over time like eating habits, they have helped so well, and rightly so, by the time of Covid that, associated with the rise of remote work, saw the habits of home births turning the world upside down from reclaiming. And the sustainability of remote work and post-containment has not helped the affairs of traditional restaurants that, especially at lunchtime, are now receiving fewer customers, it is a fact.

Enhancing Entrepreneurship

The local authorities also addressed this issue. Especially in big cities where the economic model of dark kitchens takes full importance, takes advantage of critical mass and density of customers and creates a perfect system everything depends on the ability to deliver on time.

Unfair competition with small businesses, the fragility of delivery personnel, noise and visual discomfort are the main arguments put forward by critics of these new models of food consumption.

But the evolution of the uses of food should not lead to the fragility of an entire system. This is basically the position of the city of Lyon, which is very concerned about the development of these new practices. “First of all, we are against such a system of business optimization, where delivery personnel are unstable, responding to the logic of time driven by these platforms.”, explains Camille Ogi, Employment Assistant, Sustainable and Local Economy. The elected ecologist specifies that “Certainly the debate remains philosophical about the world we want and it is of concern as much as it unites”.

In line with dark stores, these online sales specialty stores, criticized by the mayor, the question of dark kitchens poses the same problems as ghost stores at the expense of proximity.

After the rejection of the creation of the Place de l’Europe on 6e The Lyon region, in January 2022, it was the turn of the municipality of Villeurbanne last February to say no to sector giant Deliveroo. The two sects that fight with the weapons that are theirs: an administrative bias with a declaration of non-compliance with the rules of the locally established PLU-H …

You don’t want to turn the city intoWarehouse city, without a shop window where people stay at home”Camille Augie also denounces the inconveniences associated with such trade. “With delivery workers concentrated in certain points of the city which also leads to security issues”argue.

Can we oppose the evolution of dietary practices as is the case for mobility (especially the emergence of VTC)? “The question is certainly still legitimate, but how far are we willing to go to explore this type of model. We’ve seen it with Uber transportation and job instability, it’s the same for restaurants and delivery people”commented elected official Lyon.

In addition to the issue of delivery, it is also about identifying these shadow chefs. Some restaurants own or owned them, but the closures that followed the back-to-back confinement prompted some to continue working on these hidden stoves in order to stay active. Others, who had no experience in traditional catering, embarked on a less restrictive model of physical commerce: no dining room staff, no investment in decor and equipment (kitchen equipment, chairs, tables, etc…).

The Food’Lab brand located in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region and in Rennes, for example, has developed a concept of a communal kitchen to facilitate the creation of several brands, particularly in Isere and at its location in 9e Leon Circle … Obatai, Demchom and even Kinoko … A total of 17 dark kitchens have recently been deployed on an area of ​​approximately 1,500 square meters2.

last mile logic

Logistics is one of the keys, if not the key to this thriving business model. Over the course of 20 years, the rise of e-commerce in its entirety, devotion to click and aggregation, has led to a targeted real estate offering to meet these new logistical needs. “Today, everything can be delivered, or almost. The French do not hesitate. Hence an exponential number of packages of all kinds, delivered here and there, at any given time. In cities, last mile delivery is a big challenge because it is financially expensive (25-30% of the delivery cost), not to mention the limitations associated with multiple delivery points, which is caused by the inconvenience…. Indeed, how do we ensure fast and efficient home delivery at an acceptable financial and environmental cost? We wonder at Brice Robert Arthur Loyd, who specializes in commercial real estate.

The operator indicates that these new customers are looking for spaces from 200 to 500 square meters2If possible with a good height under the ceiling, to improve the storage of products, and inevitably on one level, to facilitate flows “. Buildings that are equipped by installing cold storage tanks in particular. Today, observed rents are generally less than 200€/m2. Among the most sought-after locations are the areas with the most young workers in Brice Robert Arthur Loyd.

Will the appetite for this fast-delivered kitchen be sustainable? Will the “post-containment” effect not be replaced by a return to life before? Dark kitchens respond to demand and evolve to consume food differently but it is only one answer among many offerings. Faced with so many offers, will the same brands be able to continue to differentiate themselves and differentiate themselves on the web while maintaining an economic model that must solve the equation of current customer desires, quality of dishes and respect for delivery times?

Julian Tibert

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