The meteoric rise of ‘dark kitchens’ threatens classic dining

It’s D-Day. While restaurants, which have been closed for months, will be able to reopen their terraces, the emergence of “dark kitchens” could deal a new blow to traditional food services. These virtual restaurants, which have no room or service, and consist of a kitchen that focuses entirely on delivery, have been distinguished for their opacity and uniformity of tastes that they generate. Some even compare it to the early mass distribution earthquake, which caused an earthquake in food companies.

Stacksdando, Mission Saigon, Out Fry, Burger… If you have received meals from these restaurants while booking, and you want to test them in real life, on site, you will have to wait for a long time. Because these brands are virtual. Created by Specialist Tester. The Frenchman, who has just raised 37 million euros, is one of the symbols of the success of dark kitchens. The concept was developed, straight from the US, in the wake of the advent of delivery platforms such as Deliveroo or Uber Eats. No dining room, no service, no balcony, a dark kitchen, and a dark kitchen in the literal sense of the word is a kitchen focused exclusively on serving meals.

In full containment, delivery has been a lifeline for many restaurants with 47% growth in just two years. It’s hard to know how many “ghost kitchens” there are in France, but their number continues to grow. Uber Eats counted over 1,500 virtual brands at the end of February. At the end of April, delivery platform Deliveroo also opened a second dark kitchen in northern Paris. The restaurant industry views the rapid rise of this concept with a critical eye.

“Unifying Tastes”

Culinary journalist Stephane Meganis first denounced the “unification of taste”. To fully understand, you need to know that some groups with dark kitchens will create virtual restaurants overnight on demand. These brands’ tacos, burgers, pizza and more will be cooked in the same “dark kitchen” and ingredients will be grouped to improve productivity. “Dark kitchens counteract the trend towards seasonal kitchen, open to customers at a fair fee to producers or deliverers, it is the era of obscurity”Dealing with the journalist. And he is not the only one who has spoken out against this new concept.

In a column published at the end of last year, the big names in the restaurant industry, such as three-star chefs Arnaud Lalmente and Regis Marcon, denounced the lack of serious regulation regarding dark kitchens and delivery. Our successive governments have left the wolf in the fold.they write. “Like small businesses, restaurants are being threatened by some digital platforms that operate similarly. We already know that, from a virtual store to no store at all, there is only one step. From a virtual restaurant to no restaurant at all as well.”

The new face of catering

For some observers, dark kitchens correspond to the industrialization of restaurants, without imparting knowledge. “I don’t want the new face of foodie in France to turn into a crowd of low-paid delivery guys crowding in front of a 10-square-meter kitchen”, denounces the owner of a Parisian restaurant who prefers to remain anonymous. Even Time Out contributor Mon Paname talks about “Tricatiles” Referring to the CEO of the industrial food chain, Jack Tricatel, in the movie Wing or Thigh.

“Beyond the unity of tastes, the problem is the purchasing groups that will kill the small producers”, Explained in a video. “There was the same problem with the arrival of mass distribution that killed food companies. We don’t go to the ‘best’ but to the death of small producers and small restaurants”continued.

If the photo of such dark kitchens seems gloomy, then not all of them are on the same model. For example, Chef Laurent Thomas created La Petite Ferme in Lyon. Dark Kitchen aims to be environmentally responsible with local produce and returnable jars packaging. Enthusiasm for this concept is very strong, but the profitability model has not yet been found. Last year, Uber Eats decided to close its dark kitchens.

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