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It seems you can’t open the pages of a trade magazine at the moment without reading about the rise of dark kitchens. The accelerated shift towards takeaway and click & collect service over the last 12 months has led to huge increase in the number of dark kitchens – a professional kitchen space used for preparing food for delivery, without customer facing facilities.

One estimate says that were around 750 dark kitchens operating in the UK by March 2021. Deliveroo alone has opened 16 sites across England since 2017, housing around 100 stainless kitchens, under its Deliveroo Editions concept.

But what exactly is a dark kitchen and what are the benefits to operators? Here’s a quick summary.

What is a dark kitchen?

A dark kitchen – otherwise known as a ghost, satellite or cloud kitchen – is a kitchen space where food is prepared for the intention of delivery. Overheads are lower because there are no customer facing services, no dining areas and no waiting staff.

Why have they grown in popularity?

The first dark kitchens appeared in London around 2017, largely in portable buildings. The original idea behind the concept was to help restaurants expand into new areas without the same investment as opening new high street premises. However, the change in consumer trends over the last 12 months due to COVID-19 restrictions have accelerated their rollout.

Big Hospitality reports that the combined value of delivery and takeaway orders rose 317% in the UK in February 2021 compared with the same month in 2020. The volume of orders rose from 9.1million to 19.6million in the same months.

What are the benefits?

For operators, dark kitchens provide the opportunity to tap into booming delivery markets without compromising operations or adding to pressures on site – particularly now that restrictions are beginning to be lifted.

Many dark kitchen operators will also offer rolling monthly tenancy agreements, which can reduce the risk for caterers.

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