How to Compete with Dark Kitchens

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What are Dark Kitchens

Dark Kitchens, aka virtual kitchens, cloud kitchens, ghost kitchens, or delivery-only restaurants all revolve around the same concept, selling meals solely by online delivery.

There is no physical store customers can enter or sit in and, unsurprisingly, have grown in popularity during the pandemic. However, keep in mind consumers now demand convenience, speed, and minimal interaction with staff when it comes to their shopping habits. Pandemic or no pandemic Dark Kitchens were an inevitability and food retailers will find them popping up more and more in their trading area.

With the rise in popularity of food delivery apps such as Uber Eats, Just Eat, Doordash, and Deliveroo, food retailers have seen an opportunity to set up their own virtual stores and bypass the costs and hassle of having a physical store.

Benefits of a Dark Kitchen

  • No high rent charges to contend with
  • No need to provide seating areas
  • Drastically reduced overheads
  • Easily able to adapt and change their menu
  • Multiple virtual brands can be prepared in the same kitchen. That’s why it’s easy to target multiple segments and serve multiple different demographics at the same time.

Back kitchen of restaurant with chef cooking to large pots of food

So, how can traditional restaurants and cafés compete? 

If you are a traditional brick and mortar hospitality retailer don’t panic and think these are the end times for your industry. While Dark Kitchens have many benefits they still face many  constraints:

  • They have to differentiate themselves to remain competitive in a crowded market.
  • If they are using food delivery apps to set up their virtual store they’re likely to see their profit margins being squeezed by high charges.
  • Having no physical presence means they have to rely heavily on online and social media marketing. This type of marketing for Dark Kitchen is not optional. Email marketing, food photography, and brand personality need to be spot-on to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Dark Kitchens that are not strong in these areas will likely struggle.
  • Due to having no customer interaction, there isn’t an option to shine brightly through enhanced customer service levels.

The pandemic caused a huge mental health crisis. According to The Health Foundation, a charity committed to better health care in the UK, recent data suggests the mental health crisis is only worsening. Many people struggled with loneliness and being isolated for long periods. As we have progressed through the pandemic there is a feel for wanting things to go back to normal. For some popping into their local coffee shop and having a chat with their favourite barista is what makes their morning.

For others being able to go into their café for a full English and chatting with the regulars and staff while they enjoy their breakfast is part of their daily routine. Eating out with friends and family is always going to be a way of life and something people are always going to want to do. While ordering online and eating in will always have its appeal so will socialising, having fun, and spending time with friends and family by eating out. Eating out for many is key to their mental health.

People enjoying their meal at a restaurant and taking a picture with wait staff
Have the right tech in place

In order for food retailers to be able to compete in this climate having the right tech in place to enhance customer service levels is key. Easy to redeem loyalty offerings and fast and friendly service is key to this. Here at Emergo, we provide loyalty solutions allowing customers to be able to redeem their rewards by a simple tap of their payment card or device. There is no longer any need for loyalty stamp cards or obtaining customer details for a lengthy and annoying sign-up process, just tap, redeem and go. Our EPOS and payments systems allow for fast processing, better and accurate reporting on your revenue and top selling products, more efficient stock control, and these are offered on both our fixed and portable devices. This means you can process orders and payments easily anywhere on your premises and send them to the kitchen automatically. You can serve customers faster and wait staff are less rushed and have more time to spend on customer service.

Online ordering

You can also compete by setting up your own online storefront. While many restaurants did this to adapt during Covid lockdowns some may have used food delivery apps whose fees were hard to operate with while trying to remain profitable. With Emergo’s Go Eat product you can create your own storefront and through our backend add your menu, logo, pictures, descriptive text, process orders through your prep stages and adjust your delivery field and charge. You can use our site and establish your own subdomain to link to your own website or use the URL we create that you can distribute, all for a much reasonable price.

Dark Kitchens are coming but you don’t need to fret as long as you have the right tech in place you’re set to survive and thrive.

Staff smiling with 2 customers at restaurant

Like what you’ve heard so far? Then get in touch

If we’ve piqued your interest, then get in touch. Take a look at some of our other blogs and case studies to see how we’ve assisted and supported a variety of businesses.

Please contact one of our friendly and knowledgeable sales reps if you are looking for Online Ordering, EPOS, Payments, or Loyalty systems. If you’re curious about how Emergo can assist you, fill out our form and get started on your Emergo journey today.

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