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Hospitality in Brussels: Are "Dark Kitchens" the solution?

Between our lockdowns and the rise of meal delivery platforms, restaurants need to find solutions to keep business running.

One of these popular solutions is the concept of "Dark Kitchens".

« We can't control all the circumstances of life. But we can always make an effort to control how we react to them. » - Denis St-Pierre

In this article, we’ll tell you:

  • What a Dark Kitchen is?

  • Why Dark Kitchens are booming?

  • How to test the concept despite the lockdown?

  • Some considerations to take into account.

  • The advantages of the package for restaurant owners.

  • Who can be a partner to help you in Brussels: BeCook

Are you familiar with the concept of "Dark kitchen", also known as "virtual kitchen", "cloud kitchen" or "ghost kitchen"?

All these phrases refer to the same business model: exclusively selling meals online.

Platforms such as Uber Eats, Deliveroo or Take Away have turned this market into a real gold mine.

These delivery platforms allow food companies to easily connect with customers and quickly deliver meals to their homes.

Why is this model so successful?

  • People have less time to spend on daily activities such as cooking. As a result, more and more people are ordering their meals online. The demand for virtual restaurants has been growing for several years.

  • At the same time, there is a global growth in online business models. These are influencing almost every industry today, including the food sector.

  • Restaurants that have a physical establishment are taking the lead and are offering more and more often a delivery service combined with their core business.

Some figures for illustration:

  • In Belgium, 3,000 restaurants have already signed with the Deliveroo platform. This shows the remarkable boom the sector is experiencing;

  • According to UBS forecasts, in 2030, the home delivery sector could make 365 billion dollars in sales worldwide, compared to 60 billion in 2018.

As a result, more and more restaurant owners are looking for home or office delivery services in order to benefit from reduced investment, and operating and staffing costs.

Their success model is essentially based on the use of a "Dark Kitchen".

"Dark kitchen": How to set one up

  • First of all, you start like any other restaurant, by defining the menu and the market you're targeting (Dark Kitchens focus mainly on the lunchtime office audience and home dining).

  • You plan a digital promotional strategy with an outstanding brand image. Then you should make a budget meant for advertising mainly on Facebook and Instagram, without forgetting about the content on social networks, the website and a constant updating of the menu and promotions.

  • Furthermore, you should choose the delivery platform. Their commission fee varies between 10% and 40% for the delivery service (which services are included in this budget?). Usually, it’s advised to work with more than one platform in order to ensure service and development. These platforms work through mobile applications that are integrated into the operating of the food business.

  • As far as planning is concerned, it is very important to define the delivery area (within a radius of 3 to 6 km, depending on whether the dishes are delivered hot or not), the prices of the dishes (between 6 euros and 18 euros per dish, depending on the chef and the type of dishes chosen), the delivery times and the delivery system (either deliver the dishes yourself or outsource the deliveries to a delivery company), as well as the packaging method that guarantees the quality and image of the restaurant.

Checklist for setting up a delivery service:

Before deciding to implement the delivery service you have to consider certain risks in production and service capacity.

When you decide to get into this new source of revenue, you should take into account the following things:

  1. Normative: As in any business there are different standards. We advise you to talk to someone who can advise you on the required authorizations, contracts and insurance.

  2. Receiving orders: You must have a computer system that allows you to manage orders. Usually, platforms provide this system and are committed to promoting your company through the Internet but you must have established a good way of working within your company.

  3. Kitchens: You must be prepared to receive orders when the time comes and be aware that production peaks can grow exponentially. That's why you need to have an optimal space to prepare your dishes, with enough light and equipment; all of course in a hygienic space.

  4. Delivery: It is very important that you set out routes and areas where you will deliver, in order to reduce costs, ensure that the products arrive at their destination in the best conditions. You should also make sure that the hot/cold chain is respected. In addition, choosing an online delivery platform will help you further reduce the costs associated with hiring a delivery person or acquiring vehicles or bicycles.

  5. Feedback: Receiving feedback from customers is essential, which is why a feedback system is relevant and necessary in order to measure the satisfaction and experience of your service and subsequently improve your action plan.

The keys to successful packaging

There are 3 important things to consider:

  1. Price: On many occasions the price of packaging greatly reduces the benefits, pay attention to this when making your choice!

  2. Quality: You have to pay attention to the fact that the products arrive at the customer’s in the best conditions, presented correctly.

  3. Ecology: In this day and age it is very important to be environmentally aware. Consider using recyclable or biodegradable packaging in your deliveries. In addition to receiving appreciation from customers, they can be a great differentiator from your competition.

"Dark Kitchen": Benefits for restaurant owners

Not having to provide consumption space for customers significantly reduces costs such as rent and staff. Dark Kitchens are therefore perfect for new catering companies to get started with low overhead costs.

For the already established restaurants, this solution allows them to increase their capacity and respond to the growth of the meal delivery market.

Another key value of the Dark Kitchen model is the ability to easily experiment with new brands, new menus and new concepts.

If the entrepreneur's ambition is to have their own infrastructure in the long term, Dark Kitchens also allow them to gain credibility with financial institutions (banks and financial companies) and private investors ('Business angels', 'crowdfunding', investors in development capital according to the progress of your project and its potential).

The changes to consider when consumer food trends change are minimal, so business agility is very high, a menu or concept evolves in no time. If an offer or a virtual sign does not work, the entrepreneur simply creates a new one.

BeCook: One of the solutions you need to start your Dark Kitchen

We offer professional and individual kitchens for rent. Our kitchens comply with the standards of the FASFC and are fully equipped. Moreover, we are located less than 3 kilometers from the center of Brussels. Furthermore, we offer you the possibility to serve every Brussels commune.

By renting our kitchens, we offer you:

  • A production site that complies with the standards of the FASFC and the possibility to market your products without administrative constraints.

  • Individual kitchens available 24/7.

  • Start your activity with a minimum investment and a maximum profitability: Renting from us at a reduced price allows you to start your activity more relaxed and to reach a break-even point quickly. You will be able to develop your brand image and focus on promoting your products.

  • Expert advice in food production and in launching your business. We can help you define which market to take, how to start your business, how to manage your production, your logistics (delivery system) and much more. We will always be there to help you.

"Fear of change drives us to inaction." - Lori Nelson Spielman

Take action and contact us! We will make your project a success.

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