On That Great Business Show, we’ve had our fair share of guests representing the Irish food, drink and hospitality sectors - hello Tara Beattie, co-founder of The Caterers, SI Cafés and Mange Tout Ltd (Episode 24), to name just one of many. Creativity and innovation are always key ingredients to the success of businesses in these sectors. All the more so during the pandemic. Take for example, ‘dark kitchens’ – that’s where you can make the business assets 'sweat' that little bit more…...
The definition of what it means to be a restaurant, from operations to production, has changed massively in recent times. Let us introduce you to ‘dark', ‘ghost' or ‘cloud' kitchens. The hot trend for food delivery from players like UberEats, Just Eat and Deliveroo was accelerated by the pandemic and the changing dining habits of younger generations, is forecast to continue post-pandemic. The dark kitchen model has been solving inefficiencies, meaning those in the industry can create better concepts at lower prices that are available to a wider target market.
What’s so sweaty about a ‘dark kitchen’?
In layman's terms, dark kitchens are delivery-only professional kitchens allowing restaurants to cater for the home delivery market in a lower cost, more suburban setting. With this model, quality, reputation management, effective transport links and accessibility for delivery are key to success. The concept moves the preparation and cooking to a location away from the main restaurant, therefore avoiding overstretching busy restaurant kitchens and staff.
Irish-led restaurant turned ‘neighbourhood’ kitchen, Camile Thai, founded by Brody Sweeney, is embracing ghost kitchen opportunities to expand beyond conventional brick and mortar restaurants in neighbourhoods across London. By doing so, Camile can quickly scale into denser, urban areas without the overhead of operating a traditional restaurant space, while also improving delivery times. The chain is opening 15 new sites in the UK and Ireland, with ‘dark kitchens’ a key part of this expansion.
Making money from sweat
The dark kitchen model allows a restaurant to extend its reach beyond its traditional market, without the costly overheads associated with having a city centre location. The physical location is no longer a primary concern as the brand can focus its presence online, meaning money can be used to employ more staff or better quality produce.
These kitchens can be kitted out and updated to meet demand quickly regarding the cuisine of the restaurant without closing for renovations. And, aside from the online store, the only concerns are staff, drivers and produce. Also, they offer an opportunity to expand delivery to other areas without the cost of a fully-functioning kitchen. Furthermore, bottle-necked backlogs often experienced with restaurants during peak periods are minimised.
Sweat is not just for kitchens
This business model isn’t just used in the food, drink and hospitality industries. Pop-up stores are another novel way to ‘sweat’ company assets, breathing life into previously unused commercial areas. Such shops can give businesses the opportunity to test the market waters, increase their brand profile, and showcase their products. Unfortunately Covid has put a short-stop to most pop-up shops, but also thanks to Covid having destroyed some retail businesses it means that there are many more pop-up retail opportunities likely to be available. Even now, you can be sure that there are many already planning pop-up Christmas gift shops, or our own particular love…the Christmas Jumper Shop.
As always in business, innovation is key.