Dark kitchen: losing food?


The name does not sell well, but the so-called “dark kitchens” or even “ghost kitchens” are gaining an increasing market share in the restaurant segment. The phenomenon of these kitchens oriented almost exclusively to the sale of meals at home is mostly urban, with orders placed through applications, the best known being Deliveroo or Uber Eats. This dark kitchen market is global and, for so, very dynamic. According to a study carried out by businesscoot.com, in 2019 it represented 5% of commercial catering. It should be noted that China and India are the most developed markets with, respectively, 7,500 and 3,500 of these so-called “ghost” structures. 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. What, in addition, to direct this business towards a franchise system, to hybrid bicycles, and opened the way to an uberization of society. Because habits related to mobility have evolved over time like eating habits, well helped, it is true, by the period of the Covid that has seen, associated with the arrival of telework, that of home deliveries that have upset the world of restoration. And the sustainability of teleworking, post-confinement has not helped the business of traditional restaurants that, especially at lunchtime, receive fewer and fewer customers, it is a fact. Boost to entrepreneurship Local authorities have also taken up the issue. Especially in large cities where the economic model of dark kitchens acquires all its relevance, capitalizing on a critical mass and a density of customers and making optimal a system that bets everything on the ability to deliver to small shops, precariousness of delivery . people, noise and visual discomfort are the main arguments put forward by detractors of these new models of food consumption, but the evolution of food uses does not have to lead to the precariousness of an entire system. This is essentially the position of Lyon City Council, which is very concerned about the development of these new practices. “First of all, we are against this system of uberization of work, where the delivery people are precarious, responding to the time logics driven by these platforms,” ​​explains Camille Augey, employment assistant, sustainable and local economy. The elected ecologist points out that “the debate continues to be philosophical around the world we want and which worries as much as it unites”. Along the lines of dark shops, these supermarkets specialized in online sales, which the municipal executive had denounced. , the question of dark kitchens raises the same problems of ghost shops to the detriment of the proximity of the municipality of Villeurbanne last February to say no to the giant of the sector Deliveroo. The two communities fighting with the weapons that are theirs: an administrative bias with the proclamation of the breach of the locally established PLU-H… Not wanting a transformation of the city into a “warehouse city, without a window where people stay -se a home”, Camille Augey also denounces the inconveniences linked to this job. “With a concentration of deliverymen in certain parts of the city that also pose security problems”, he argues, can we, however, go against the evolution of food practices as is the case with mobility (and in particular the rise of hybrid bicycles)?” The question certainly remains legitimate, but how far are we willing to go to explore these types of models. We’ve seen it with Uber transport and the precariousness of jobs, it’s the same for restaurateurs and delivery people,” comments the elected official from Lyon. In addition to the issue of deliveries, it’s also about defining who these are shadow cooks. Some own or own restaurants, but the closures following successive confinements have pushed some to continue working in these hidden stoves to maintain their activity. Others, who had no experience in traditional catering, embarked on a less restrictive model than a brick-and-mortar store: no staff in the dining room, no investment related to decoration and equipment (kitchen equipment, chairs, tables, etc.) The Lab brand established in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alps region and Rennes, for example, has developed a shared kitchen concept to facilitate the establishment of multiple brands, especially in Isère and its place in the 9th arrondissement of Lyon… Opadthai, Dimshome and even Kinoko… Recently has n deployed a total of 17 dark kitchens in an area of ​​nearly 1,500 m2. Last mile logic Logistics is one of the keys, if not the key to this successful business model. For 20 years, the rise of electronic commerce in its entirety, the consecration of click and collect have brought out a real estate offer aimed at covering these new logistical needs. “Today, everything can be delivered, or almost. And the French do not hesitate to do it. Hence an exponential number of packages of all kinds, delivered here and there, at any time. In cities, the delivery of the last kilometer is important.challenging because it is expensive from a financial point of view (25-30% of the cost of delivery), not to mention the limitations linked to multiple delivery points, the resulting inconveniences… In fact, how to guarantee fast and efficient home delivery at an acceptable economic and environmental cost?” asks one of Brice Robert Arthur Loyd, who specializes in business real estate. The operator indicates that these new customers are looking for surfaces of 200 to 500 m2, “if possible with a good height under the ceiling, to optimize the storage of products, and essentially on one level, to facilitate flows”. Premises that equip by installing specially refrigerated cabinets. Currently, the observed rents are generally below 200 euros/m2. Brice Robert Arthur Loyd’s districts with the most young workers are among the most popular places. Will the appetite for this quickly delivered cuisine be sustainable? Won’t the “post-containment” effect be replaced by a return to life earlier? Dark kitchens respond to a demand and an evolution to consume food differently but they are only one response among a multitude of offers. And in the face of the multitude of offers, the same brands will be able to continue differentiating themselves and distinguishing themselves in the network by maintaining an economic model that must solve both the equation of the customers’ current desires, the quality of the dishes and the quality of the plates. Respect for delivery times? Julien Thibert
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