“Dark Kitchen”: these 2.0 restaurants boosted by the health crisis

Many “virtual restaurants” have doubled their turnover since the start of the pandemic.

Uber Eats lists 1,500 “Dark Kitchens” on its application, in France.

In the economic slump caused by the health crisis, a branch of the restaurant industry is doing well. The “DarkKitchen– these restaurants without rooms and without servers whose dishes are distributed only via delivery platforms – are experiencing unprecedented enthusiasm. It is a microcosm in the world of catering since, of the 25,000 restaurants present on Uber Eats in France, 1,500 virtual brands are listed by the application. But that’s 500″DarkKitchenmoreover, since March.

The proliferation of 2.0 restaurants has not affected their results. On the contrary, players in the sector have seen their revenues soar in recent months. The turnover of the five virtual restaurants (located in Paris, Nice and Bordeaux) of the company “DarkKitchendoubled in March. If the effectboom“Containment fell in April, “growth remains higher than the previous year“, explains Jean Valfort, founder of the company. Same observation on the side ofTaste», which claims to be the European leader in the sector. The start-up created in 2017 owns about fifteen restaurants, under 5 brands distributed in Paris, Rouen, London and Madrid. And its turnover has doubled since the start of the health crisis.

The Covid saved the market 3 years

This growth is explained by the boom in deliveries. In effect, “Uber Eats activity doubled between the first quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020», Explains the platform to the Figaro. “The confinement had an accelerating effect in the development of the catering deliveredconfirms Deliveroo. “The Covid saved the market 3 years“, adds Anton Soulier, ex-executive of Deliveroo and founder of”Taste“.

This growth is also made possible by the economic model of these establishments, which enjoy a low profitability threshold. Indeed, to create aDarkKitchen», it is enough to install a kitchen and its cooks in a place with a high population density to be visible on the applications. No need, therefore, to ruin yourself in a local that has a storefront. “The investment is 6 to 10 times cheaper than that of a traditional restaurant, depending on the equipment chosen. In addition to the location, we save on the surface and the decoration, not needing a room to welcome the customersexplains Jean Valfort. “The investment for a traditional restaurant ranges from 100,000 to 1 million euros. However, from 50,000 euros, it is possible to create a virtual brand», explains Anton Soulier. These lower fixed costs are, however, blunted by the cost of deliveries. “The percentage donated to the platforms can represent 20% to 35% of the revenue“says the founder of”Taste“.

10 virtual restaurants in 6 weeks

Exponential, this phenomenon is not only Parisian. “60% of the virtual restaurants available on Uber Eats are in Paris, 30% in large cities, such as Bordeaux, Lille, Marseille, Toulouse or Rennes and 10% in small towns“, indicates the platform to the Figaro.

Quentin Lacointa owns five pizzerias in Toulouse – called “The factory– within which he had already developed, in 2019, three virtual brands dedicated to pizza and salads. Digital restaurants can indeed be added to existing establishments and thus take advantage of the infrastructure in place. This diversification has alloweda gain of 5% in turnover“, says the entrepreneur.

The pandemic has precipitated its digitization. Over the past 6 weeks, the Toulousain has launched 10 virtual restaurants under 4 different brands. A profitable strategy, since he achieved 80% of his usual turnover, even though his restaurants “with roomwere closed. “It saved us during the crisis“, he explains. He already plans to develop other virtual brands in Lyon and Bordeaux, in particular.

A “underlying trend»

However, the concept suffers from a lack of image, in particular that of “junk food“. The flagship products of the delivery platforms are indeed burgers, sushi and pizzas. At the house of “DarkKitchen” and “Taste“, the average baskets are respectively 20 and 25 euros. Difficult to climb to a high-end positioning.

For Jean Valfort, it is only a matter of time. “This positioning is a short-term reality. The market has not matured. Customers accustomed to consuming on the platforms, often young, will maintain their habits over time. The offer will then have to adapt to a new demand“, he predicts. “This occasional mode of consumption has become more usual. When we started, we made 50% of our turnover on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Today is much more spread out over the weekobserves Anton Soulier.

The sector is also criticized for its model “dehumanized» which would overshadow the . “When the restaurants reopened between the two confinements, we did not lose any turnover. The consumer does not make a trade-off between meal delivery and going to a restaurant. This trade-off is rather between delivery and purchase in the supermarket“says Anton Soulier.

For the two specialists, confinement has certainly been a “catalyst“but meal delivery is”a fundamental trendwho has a bright future ahead of her. Deliveroo is also betting on it. For the past two years, the platform has been developing kitchens in FranceEditions», dedicated exclusively to delivery. “We host restaurateurs who only have to settle on site to cook and manage the site and deliveries“, explains the British company to the Figaro. Shared “dark kitchens” in a way. Today two sites in Courbevoie and one in Saint-Ouen host 20 digital restaurants. The platform plans to open “half a dozen“of sites”Editions» additional in 2021.

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