Dark Kitchen businesses share the same operational processes: orders come in, food is prepared, packaged meals are sent to the customer. “Dark Kitchen, Ghost Kitchen, Virtual Kitchen”… Dark Kitchen has so many names that it’s basically a delivery-only kitchen. The low cost of starting a business compared to traditional restaurants has made Dark Kitchen a growing trend for food entrepreneurs.
The differences between the different types of “dark kitchens” lie in how they work. To unravel this mystery, let’s take a look at the most common Dark Kitchen business models and how they work.
Six Dark Kitchen Business Models – How They Work
There are several ways to manage a delivery-focused production kitchen, and the devil is in the details. The main question is, how much of your kitchen work do you want to fully control, and how much to outsource?
Dark Kitchen’s various business models give you the ability to control as many or as few processes as you want. From taking orders and delivering groceries, to marketing your kitchen and even making the food itself.
To see how this works in practice, we’ll take a look at the most common Dark Kitchen business models and how they work. After that, you will be able to make the right decision about whether the Dark Kitchen business model is right for your business.
Traditional Dark Kitchen Model
While the concept of the Dark Kitchen hasn’t been around long enough to merit the name “traditional”, it is the standard operating model for the “dark kitchen”.
One company brand owns or leases one kitchen space without a dining room. Because one brand uses one kitchen, these businesses typically focus on one type of cuisine and optimize for online delivery orders. They may rely on third-party delivery channels or hire their own employees to complete orders and deliver.
This model allows you to maximize the optimization of work with one specific kitchen, but does not give much room for new ideas.
Multi-brand model Dark Kitchen
In this case, several brands operate under the same parent company. Brands offer a variety of cuisines and dishes, while sharing cuisine, equipment and resources to maximize efficiency and reduce operating costs.
What is a multi-brand cloud kitchen?
One of the biggest benefits of opening a multi-brand cloud kitchen is that it allows one parent company to offer multiple different cuisines in the same space. With no front-of-house, multi-brand cloud kitchens are evolving to serve multiple audiences, each operating under a different brand.
For example, one cloud kitchen company may operate three brands, each specializing in Indian, Italian, and Chinese cuisines, respectively. However, it may seem to customers that these are independent brands with independent catering operations for different cuisines. Because it is a delivery-only format, low start-up and marketing costs are often cited as the biggest gaming factor.
The success of this model depends on data analysis: each individual brand or type of cuisine has its own unique identity in terms of marketing. The operator uses the data to supply the most popular dishes based on local demand for each type of cuisine.
Multi-brand Dark Kitchen allows you to capture a larger piece of the market and provides maximum flexibility. You can quickly adapt to demand. Often, locals look for and use the nearest restaurants with certain dishes or national cuisine. Multi-brand cuisine is a great option to meet demand by offering a varied range of dishes.
Dark Kitchen Takeaway
This option is very similar to the traditional Dark Kitchen model, but in addition to delivery, it accepts customers in a small room – not to dine, but to wait for their food and pick it up themselves, see the kitchen in action and chat with employees.
In fact, this is a hybrid of Dark Kitchen and an ordinary restaurant, borrowing the best features of both models. As you can imagine, a business like this—even without a dining room—requires more space and more investment in decoration, but it provides more opportunities to connect with customers.
Dark Kitchen owned by the aggregator
Increasingly, delivery aggregators are stepping into the Dark Kitchen game, offering restaurant businesses rental kitchen space and equipment. These businesses benefit from a fleet of delivery aggregator drivers, online ordering technology, and a menu creation platform without having to spend on their own kitchen.
In this “kitchen as a service” model, restaurant brands can focus on cooking and let the Dark Kitchen owner take care of the rest. Within the framework of one large kitchen, many small kitchens can operate, in which several restaurants prepare dishes at any given time.
Dark Kitchen plus aggregator
This model is very similar to the aggregator’s Dark Kitchen, except that the offer includes more infrastructure and streamlined kitchen process frameworks. It may include a display case similar to that used in the “Dark Kitchen Takeaway” model.
For example, a delivery aggregator can provide a well-equipped kitchen and take care of all operational and marketing processes, except for food preparation and menu planning—this could even include data-driven demand management.
This is the latest addition to the Dark Kitchen business model, allowing the restaurant to outsource virtually all processes except for the finishing touches. This is done in partnership with another business that specializes in food preparation as well as order processing and delivery.
The customer-focused brand is only minimally involved in the finishing touches of the cooking process, leaving the team free to focus on delivering a flawless, distinctive end product that is sure to delight.
Which kitchen model is right for your business?
Deciding which model is best for your business will depend on a number of factors:
- Your resources – do you want to own every step and process or outsource everything?
- Demand in the area – will the local population support several restaurant brands or is it better to focus on the development of one particular brand?
- The value of a high street property compared to a suburban property – should you offer a storefront pickup service, or can you save on overhead and place it next to an suburban residential area?
- Your values and mission – do you want to create a community kitchen for other food businesses, or go it alone and manage multiple brands in your own kitchen?
The great thing about dark kitchens is that you can use the data to figure out what the opportunities are and then choose the model that works best for the situation. Then constantly optimize to make the most of it.
If something doesn’t work, the model allows you to make changes and change your offering, or even create a new virtual restaurant if needed.