Are dark kitchens the future of the food industry?
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Are dark kitchens the future of the food industry?

Are dark kitchens the future of the food industry?

The appetite for dark kitchen concepts has grown significantly in the UAE

Gulf Business

The pandemic dramatically altered the growth pace of the food delivery ecosystem.

As people were either prevented from – or avoided – dining at their favourite restaurants, a number of operators doubled down on efforts to find a path to their customers’ doors.

This translated into a marked increase in food delivery and cloud kitchens – designed to offer meals exclusively through delivery. A whopping 70 per cent of restaurants are eyeing cloud kitchens to expand their business, the POSist Restaurant Industry and Market Evolution report – UAE edition 2021 revealed.

The study, based on an online survey with restaurant operators and interviews with executives, unveiled that 40 per cent of restaurant operators recognise investment in technology as one of the top priorities.

“With the growing appetite for food delivery in the UAE and significant increases in the costs of prime real estate, the potential for dark kitchens was inevitable. Overall, the dark kitchen model was positively accepted in the region, giving restauranteurs the opportunity to deliver directly to customers whilst avoiding the expenses associated with retail models,” notes Manhal Naser, group CEO of AWJ Investments.

AWJ Investments recently announced the launch of DKitchen, its dark kitchen concept, hosting a number of new virtual brands. It also launched an automated contactless dispatching model, which places orders in dedicated boxes with a locked code.

“The unique contactless dispatching model has a smart soft-ware designed specifically for DKitchen. The orders transit through an automated production line and are sorted automatically, eliminating the need for multiple dispatchers, and resulting in less wait time, reduced cost and a decrease in human error,” explains Naser.

“The automated dispatch system entirely removes the human interaction of delivery drivers and dispatchers in line with social distancing expectations.”

However, with food delivery gaining momentum, which cuisines are witnessing greater demand within the cloud kitchen space? “With Dubai being such a diverse city, we have observed demand spanning various cuisines with a high focus on Arabic, Asian and Western cuisines. At DKitchen, we aim to address this demand, in addition to other sought-after cuisines, through the development of new virtual brands,” says Naser.

“We also see an increasing popularity in the demand for quick service restaurants and street food style concepts as their perfectly positioned delivery offering, in terms of speed and price, cater towards a wider segment of the market.”

However, consistency is key and quality can only be achieved when the correct procedures are in place and the full process is continuously monitored, opines Naser.

“Our system is to fully manage the quality standards of each brand throughout the entire process, from concept creation to the moment it reaches the customer’s table. DKitchen is like a factory production, designed with carefully organised and hygiene-controlled zones to ensure that food only leaves its designated zone either during preparation or while it is being delivered to the customer.”

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