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Illuminating the Dark Kitchen

So you’ve heard the term “Dark Kitchen” or “Ghost Kitchen” bandied about lately and you’ve been feeling a little bit uhumm… in the dark…

So what is it exactly? No it’s not some nefarious underground kitchen where they’re cooking heroin in the still of the night. Rather a drug of a more regular sort – fast food.

The concept of dark kitchens has been around for a while outside of SA but since Covid hit and deliveries became the norm, the rise of the dark kitchen has been exponential.

What exactly are these mysterious kitchens?

Effectively they are centralised production spaces hosting multiple “restaurants” which rely purely on online orders. These are through third-party mobile platforms such as Uber Eats, Mr Delivery and OrdeIn. Some groups have started their own delivery systems in order to reduce cost to the consumer.

The value of a dark kitchen model is in the elimination of customer seating and waiting areas. It cuts rental, decor costs and the need for waiters. This reduces overheads, while at the same time catering to the increased need for home delivery. Slick Restaurant Group, Spur Group, Col’cacchio and Kauai are all operating these ghost or cloud kitchens as part of their future plan.

Many of them are operating right from your favourite restaurant. While the restaurant is serving one brand front of house, the kitchen is also being utilised for another brand which is available via delivery only.

While the restaurant world is waiting for a return to normality, dark kitchens are filling the gap very successfully. And while there will always be a space for the tangibility of the restaurant experience, the dark kitchen model is here to stay.

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