The complete guide on what dark kitchens are and how they work. Learn techniques to succeed with this new business model.
December 1, 2022
It's not a new Netflix series or a horror movie. Dark kitchens or ghost kitchens are the evolution of food delivery. This could be where your favorite dishes ordered by popular food delivery apps could come from in the future: Glovo, Just Eatm, Uber Eats....
But... Do you know what they are? How do they work? How much do they cost? What do you have to do to be successful with them? Read on, we'll tell you all about it!
Dark kitchens are, in fact, centralized and "closed" kitchens: restaurants where customers do not go, but where dishes are prepared and then delivered to their homes.
The restaurant experience as a social and collective moment disappears, to concentrate on what is produced, ordered and offered on the menu.
Developed especially during the height of the Covid-19 emergency (and we will soon understand why), dark kitchens are nothing more than kitchens that have a special feature: they are not inside a restaurant. You may ask yourself, how is this possible?
There are no tables or cash register, but above all there are no customers, much less waiters.
In practice, the only professionals who find their place in a dark kitchen are the cooks and the riders, precisely because the dishes that are prepared are intended to be delivered to customers through the food delivery or take away service.
As we have already briefly mentioned, this new restaurant format was very successful during the pandemic. The benefits were many, especially when it was impossible to physically go to the restaurant.
In fact, many catering companies, from the smallest to the largest, have transformed their operations according to the centralized kitchen principle, being able to save significant costs and gain numerous advantages by exploiting the food delivery service.
It's very simple, the chef prepares the food based on orders received through apps dedicated to take away or food delivery (or a simple phone call, but we know that this does not usually happen with new platforms nowadays) and then comes into play the delivery person, whose job is to deliver the dish directly to the customer.
Dark kitchen and ghost restaurant: are we talking about the same thing? Almost. If we were to imagine them hypothetically as one big family, they would certainly be close relatives.
The concept, which may seem very similar, has a crucial difference: ghost restaurants (or ghost kitchens) are multi-brand restaurant realities in which several companies in the sector share the same kitchen in order to reduce costs.
Unlike dark kitchens (which are individual companies), in ghost kitchens each company collaborates closely with the others, but maintains its own specific identity and distinct business.
Clearly, in this direction, a proactive approach to technology is indispensable, to make the most of food delivery platforms, as well as learning some restaurant marketing techniques to get noticed on social media.
But, what can be the advantages of following this restaurant concept, some of them are: the reduction of some of the most important fixed costs; the attainment of a larger number of customers; more facility at the time of making a change in the menu?
If you have been fascinated by the dark kitchens business model, we have no doubt that this section will be of interest to you.
We know that the economic factor is never irrelevant, especially when it comes to opening your own business, which is never an easy thing to do. That is precisely why it is essential to make some initial assessments of a certain type: Do you have the necessary funds? Are you willing to apply for financing? Do you want to trust a franchise?
But also, and above all, what products you want to sell, how many people you want to employ? In short, thinking about all these things will be absolutely essential: the simple fact of not losing sight of the whole picture will help you to have an overview of all the costs you will have to assume.
The advantage of dark kitchens, as we have already briefly mentioned, is undoubtedly that they have lower fixed costs:
Approximately 50,000 to 100,000 euros. These figures include the design and construction of the facilities, purchase of equipment and initial marketing and communication costs.
However, as it is easy to guess, these prices are indicative; for example, two other fundamental elements to calculate the price of opening a dark kitchen are:
In short, the best solution to find out exactly how much it might cost to open your dark kitchen is to request a quote from a professional specialized in the design of commercial premises in the Horeca sector.
Staff costs will be reduced, of course, but they will not be non-existent. For any business to function well, it is essential to have a well-trained and cohesive team to achieve one goal: to make your business the best in the market.
With this in mind, which industry professionals should you hire?
If we have said that in this restaurant format the real protagonist is the kitchen, there is no doubt that the cooks, who will be in charge of preparing the dishes, cannot be absent.
When you have to resort to food delivery services, you will have to involve two important professional figures in your team: the delivery drivers and those who prepare the packages.
The former are in charge of delivering the food to the place pre-established by the client, while the latter are in charge of preparing the food for transport prior to delivery, so that the service is carried out quickly and efficiently.
In addition, you may also consider hiring a communications person as well as an accounting and administration person. We have no doubt that you will form a fantastic team.
If you have reached this point in the article you should already know what they are, how they work and what personnel you need to set up a dark kitchen. The only thing you need to know is how to set up a successful one. Here is what we tell you.
Today, digital technologies are indispensable for running a dark kitchen. Here are some tips to make the most of the online world, coordinating internal processes and relationships with users.
Making yourself known through online channels is essential to create a relationship with your potential and current customers. Even more so with dark kitchens, since the physical and personal relationship that you have in traditional restaurants disappears.
Through social networks you can attract potential customers and convince them to try your services. It is advisable to include photos, videos, but also advertisements, promotions, special offers and discount coupons, for example, to encourage purchases.
Not to be forgotten is the website, through which the dishes and the menu can be displayed. The website must be attractive, effective and easy to navigate, to convince users to perform the desired actions.
Once a customer has ordered a dish on the website or app, you need to make sure they are enticed to order again.
It is therefore necessary to find different ways to incentivize users to make repeat purchases, through loyalty programs, for example, but also through special offers or promotions.
However, it is important not to exaggerate with too high discounts so as not to give the idea of low quality: better, for example, to offer a free dessert or an extra discount if a friend tries the same service.
Reviews are very relevant to the reputation of dark kitchens. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful weapons to encourage new customers. That is why you should always offer a quality service and, for example, offer a small gift or discount to customers who decide to review the kitchen.
The menu is the kitchen's letter of introduction. It is essential to always update the offer of dishes and to avoid that customers find themselves with dishes that are not available.
To avoid possible stock-outs, it is essential to use advanced management software that can effectively communicate the stock and products available in the warehouse to ensure the most punctual service possible.
Knowing your customers' preferences is a great advantage because it allows you to offer them a unique and personalized experience. Having information such as where they come from, their age, the channels they use most and the orders they have placed in the past allows you to accurately define your target audience and propose appropriate offers through the most effective platforms.
For a dark kitchen to function optimally and for all processes, operators and partners involved to be perfectly coordinated, it is necessary to have state-of-the-art management technology and software capable of collecting and analyzing data so that it can be used to build customer loyalty.
As we all know, as of 2020, the catering and hospitality sector came to a screeching halt. The fear of pandemics, the new regulations, the distances to be respected in the environments took its toll on the Spanish catering scene.
Especially in big cities, where most businesses do not have a large outdoor space, but only work indoors.
In these environments, opening a dark kitchen can be one of the best ideas to relaunch a restaurant. Why? Simple, because flanking the classic restaurant proposal with a service based on takeaway and delivery means reaching your customers anywhere and allowing them to enjoy your cuisine freely, wherever they want, without any limitation .
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April 24, 2023