Dark Kitchens in 2021
Our colleague Marguerita Vogelsang of Van Spronsen & Partners hospitality consultants blogs about Dark Kitchens, she thinks the question is not whether the trend will become big in the Netherlands, but it is more about when this will happen. It is however a different type of entrepreneur who seems to be suitable for this type of concept.
Dark Kitchens in 2021
We have written about the growing presence of virtual restaurants, so-called ‘Dark Kitchens’, back in 2019 and unfortunately only in Dutch. The trend originates from the United States and consists of kitchens where meals are only prepared for delivery services. These restaurants do not have any waiting staff or tables. But is this concept really as emerging as we expected at the time?
We read more often in the media about the confidence in this business model, it would be a great success. Less staff costs, lower accommodation costs and more efficient delivery times. Especially now in the current Corona circumstances, this seems a good alternative as fixed costs are often more difficult to cover. For example, we have written an article on Horecatrends about Pastabar TITO. A new pasta bar in Antwerp who will open its doors upcoming Spring, however until then operates as a Dark Kitchen due to COVID-19.
During the past months, while the hospitality industry was mostly closed, we have witnessed a shift in our eating habits. We were not able to eat out anymore and we ordered our meals more than we ever did before. Restaurants who did not offer delivery service at first tried to save their business by using this new revenue generating model. Currently, most hospitality companies who offer take-out or delivery meals meet some of the criteria of a ‘Dark Kitchen’. The level of the competition within the delivery market is high, but to what extent are dark kitchens part of this competition?
The success of this type of concept currently seems to be limited within the Netherlands. And that’s interesting now that the delivery market is growing so fast. We cannot think of many chefs who actually switched to the model of a ‘Dark Kitchen’, except from some big names like Amsterdam’ chefs Ron Blauw and Michiel van der Eerde. On the other hand, there are some companies who entirely focus on the type of concept, like Bright Kitchen, but for now it seems to be limited to that.
I believe that the difference between the typical hospitality entrepreneur running an entire restaurant and the businesses that focus entirely on these Dark Kitchens, will become more apparent over time. In my opinion this is due to the nature of the hospitality entrepreneur. For a hospitality entrepreneur, there is nothing better than a Friday or Saturday night when the restaurant is full of enjoying guests. The concept of a ‘Dark Kitchen’ attracts a different kind of entrepreneur, one who sees potential in the delivery market.
Where restaurants now temporarily operate as delivery restaurants, the majority will return to their original restaurant concept after the COVID-19 closure. Therefore, the real hype of Dark Kitchens in the Netherlands may still take a while. However, the question is not if the trend will become big in the Dutch market, but rather when this will happen. Ultimately, Dark Kitchens offer many possibilities; boxes, fresh made-to-order meals, meals from different kitchen types and the possibility to focus on the business and private market.
What I do know is that I will go out for dinner as soon as possible, where the delicious flavors are also complemented by friendly service and a cozy atmosphere. I cannot wait!
Marguerita Vogelsang, advisor at Van Spronsen & Partners hospitality consultants. You can contact her via firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone: +3171 541 88 67.
Van Spronsen & Partners hospitality consultants are a hospitality consulting firm for the Dutch hospitality and leisure industry with more than 30 years of experience. Our activities include feasibility studies, performance improvements for restaurants and hotels, developing new catering concepts, marketing & communication, consultancy for municipalities and management support. We know all the details of the Dutch hospitality market.