The Growth Of Dark (or Ghost) Kitchen Delivery

Jun 22, 2021

The number of dark kitchens (non-branded food production hubs for servicing takeaway orders) could increase by 30% to reach more than 1,000 in the UK within the next 12 months. And we’re in pole position with our SaaS solutions to support the raft of new dark kitchens emerging.

Mirroring some of the major restaurant brands, which are accelerating the development of dual strategies for their dine-in and off-premises food experiences, we’re adapting to the needs of the rapidly changing post-Covid landscape with a delivery management system that fully meets the needs of both restaurants and dark /ghost kitchens.

“Dark kitchens present a great opportunity as an additional growth stream for the business”, says our CEO.

“We’ve been quick out of the blocks in talking to some of the emerging leaders in the dark kitchen sector, as VROMO can really add value to what they are aiming to achieve in terms of optimum management levels of driver and ride efficiency.

“Dark kitchens are totally reliant on generating high volumes of takeaway food orders, and the speed at which they can get food to customers is critical to that, which is why getting the right delivery service partner (DSP) can be the difference between success and failure.”

The growth of dark kitchen delivery

Dark kitchens are food preparation hubs set up exclusively for servicing takeaway orders, and the term references the fact that they are often located in places such as industrial parks with no public access or visibility – this makes the running costs a lot cheaper than store-front premises.

The operators of dark kitchens typically prepare and cook different ranges of takeaway menus, so it is commonplace for pizzas, burgers, Chinese meals and curries to all be prepared, cooked and dispatched from the same kitchen.

This affords operators even greater efficiencies and cost savings, such as having one food preparation area and the ability to buy in bulk ingredients that are used across the entire menu range.

They are filling the gaps in specifically identified geographic areas for three key reasons. The first is to offer a wider range of food choices. The second is to be in central locations for their areas so that delivery times are reduced – therefore, consumers get their food delivered quicker. This is especially important because the condition of some food deteriorates with longer delivery times. And the third is to stack food orders so that people from the same house can order from different menus – pizza, Chinese and curry orders can all be delivered to the same household at the same time.

Four different dark kitchen operations

Looking at how the dark kitchen sector is evolving, VROMO has identified four distinct types of operations:

  1. The established restaurant chains – these have built their reputations on their dine-in experiences and either had started to dabble in delivery before the pandemic or were forced to pivot as a result of Covid-19. Many are setting up their own dark kitchens and are partnering with established marketplace apps.
  2. Virtual restaurants – although they give the outward appearance of having premises, they offer food delivery only.
  3. Landlords – these are companies that set up dark kitchens and then rent or lease them to other brands or operators. 
  4. Delivery companies – Deliveroo is the only company thus far to enter this space by setting up its own dark kitchen network with its Deliveroo Editions brand.

The first three of the four are ideal potential adopters of VROMO, but there is still scope for the fourth, as the company already works with Deliveroo.

We’re very excited about the conversations we’re having with some of the new entrants into the dark kitchen space because delivery is the single biggest factor that will determine their ability to establish their businesses.

The speed at which the dark kitchen sector is evolving is incredibly exciting, as we see huge growth potential, and VROMO can play a pivotal role in the industry’s growth.

Marketplace apps are great for start-ups, but this route is only sustainable for so long because sites like Just Eat can charge as much as 35% of the value of each order as commission, plus delivery on top.

The dark kitchen brands that will really kick on will be the ones that still retain their presence on marketplace apps but also develop other channels to promote and sell their food because owning their own infrastructure – such as delivery and marketing – is where they can generate greater profitability and therefore ensure their long-term sustainability.