What are ‘dark kitchens’ are how are they taking the food delivery business by storm?

Juan Diego Gaitán, co-founder of Food Craft and Analú, makes burgers and desserts in his kitchen in Madrid, just like he would in a restaurant. The difference is he doesn’t have a dining room, waiters or even his own street-level shop. His meals go straight from his stove to the customer’s doorstep.

He rents a so-called ‘dark kitchen.’ It’s a cooking space in a shared warehouse aimed at the food delivery businesses. Due to COVID-19 restrictions the industry is booming.

He started his brand with his partners after losing his job during the pandemic, and this venture has allowed him to quickly start a business with a small investment and fewer risks.

“If we would have had a conventional restaurant, our fixed costs would be much higher and with all the restrictions, the fixed costs would have been painful. We would have to keep paying rent and wages. This gives us total flexibility, from running a burger brand to a desserts brand, without any extra cost.”

Spaniards are now ordering twice as many food deliveries compared to before the lockdown and businesses who sell exclusively online have increased by 23%.

Around a dozen of these shared kitchens are scattered across Madrid, and their expansion is creating friction with locals who complain about the smells and the constant delivery traffic, and also with traditional restaurant owners, who demand more regulation of the sector.”

Jaime Martínez de Velasco owns a warehouse in central Madrid that will soon host up to 18 kitchens. He says he understands concerns over the new business model but insists shared kitchens meet all the requirements. “The sanitary, hygienic and urban requirements for this type of facility is the same or even tougher [than traditional restaurants].”

Martínez de Velasco believes dark kitchens are here to stay and will likely merge with traditional restaurants in the future, like clothing brands that combine high-street shops with a robust online sales platform.

“Business owner chains will combine flagship restaurants on high-streets with kitchens that will allow them to be fast, agile and very good for food deliveries.”

The pandemic has consolidated the food delivery business in Spain, and is expected to continue to grow 20% in 2021.

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