Rent a dark kitchen in Lisbon

How to rent a dark kitchen or cloud kitchen in Lisbon, Portugal, is now easy. WEAT dark kitchens, also called cloud kitchens, virtual kitchens or even ghost kitchens, are professional and industrial kitchens for rent in Lisbon, that produce food for delivery, take away, caterings or other business models that don’t include direct consumption at its premises.

More than renting dark kitchens in Lisbon, WEAT presents itself as a Gastronomic Hub, or Culinary Cowork, which seeks to help entrepreneurs and gastronomic start ups to launch their concepts.

While a traditional “brick and mortar” restaurant sells its meals in the space adjacent to its kitchen, dark kitchens do not have direct customer service and customers order their meals, usually through web platforms or smartphones.

The dark kitchens at WEAT, contrary to its name, are not dark, nor virtual and also do not have ghosts. At least, the last time the Ghost Busters came  to WEAT, with their Proton Packs, they didn’t detect any Slimer or Class 1 to 4 ghosts. Some of you are already thinking it’s a metaphor for ASAE (Food and Safety inspections in Portugal), but no. They also visited us and everything is still calm and in compliance.

Although WEAT is not a pure dark kitchen concept, our well lit dark kitchens are the essential infrastructure facilities, with all the necessary equipment to prepare food. For the time being, we do have a dining area for customers, so that our concepts can create physical contact with their customers, thus facilitating the creation of an emotional bond between brands and customers.

More than dark kitchens, WEAT presents itself as a Gastronomic Hub, or Culinary Cowork, which seeks to help entrepreneurs and gastronomic start ups to launch their concepts.

How do WEAT dark kitchens work?

From an operational point of view, a food business that produces in a dark kitchen or cloud kitchen does not see many changes compared to a kitchen in a “brick and mortar” restaurant that has already incorporated some technology.

While in the kitchen, the operation remains very similar to normal, in the service and management part, the process is much more simplified, with lower operating costs.

Operation in a WEAT dark kitchen for “virtual restaurants”

There are two small differences in the process for cooks.

The first is that orders arrive at the kitchen through the food delivery platform or directly through the business’s direct sales channels (website, social networks or dedicated apps). In many traditional restaurants, orders arrive at the kitchen via a printer that is linked to the POS. The service employees register the orders and they leave in the kitchen, so that the preparation can begin. Little changes in this case.

The second difference is that, instead of placing the food on a plate that will later be taken to the customer by a service employee, it is placed in packages. Subsequently, these packages are lifted directly by the customers or transported by a motorcycle or bicycle courier.

food-delivery-dark-kitchens

In the case of a Food Delivery Platform, like Uber Eats, Glovo or Bolt style platform, this courier is also one, let’s call him an “entrepreneur”. This is because it has nothing to do with either the restaurant or the application. In this way, the operational costs of delivery are not directly allocated to the “virtual restaurants”, not having a fixed cost of a full-time driver.

Dark Kitchens process for consumers

In the case of consumers, the process is already completely different.

First, consumers do not go to the place where the food is prepared and produced, known as a restaurant.

Second, they are not limited to the menu of that place, but have a diversity of choices, choosing not only from the menu of a restaurant, but from all those that are geographically close to it.

Third, if you use a platform like Uber Eats or Glovo, the order is made via smartphone with all the comfort, where you can see promotions, various types of food and concepts and even news.

Fourth, payment is automatically made to the platform, which later accounts with the restaurants.

Starting a food business with low initial investment

The success of online platforms such as Uber Eats, Glovo and Sushi at Home (in Portugal), among others, paved the way for the emergence of dark kitchens or cloud kitchens.

These new delivery channels have allowed restaurants to connect with people more easily. Thus, your customers can, with great comfort, receive the food in their homes or places of work.

This small transition made the process of getting food to customers easier. Smaller and more flexible restaurants saw their turnover increase. With a growing demand, many entrepreneurs who wanted to enter the gastronomic market saw this as an opportunity. They no longer need direct customer service to sell their food, reducing operating costs.

By renting a dark kitchen, entrepreneurs have yet another advantage: the lack of initial investment in equipment and infrastructure.

Many entrepreneurs who, until now, weren’t able to launch due to barriers to entry, have seen a huge opportunity to set up a business, with almost no risk.

 With dark kitchens, launching and testing new concepts is now easier and more accessible, promoting innovation. 

 Financial Times, 2019

The future virtual restaurants in dark kitchens

The future of the restaurant has changed. Actually is the present, now.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, many traditional restaurants have completely changed their operation, producing only for take away and food delivery, with no intention of returning to the traditional model. Other restaurants, due to the idiosyncrasies of their business and food, will just go back to serving directly. Some will be mix it up, optimizing the productive capacity of their kitchen to reach and serve even more customers.

But there are also those restaurants that kept the traditional space, expanded the operation to dark kitchens only focused on food delivery. In this way, they save on an initial investment and other operating costs, in an expansion to other geographic areas.

Finally, many new businesses were born for the sole purpose of operating in dark kitchens, with no intention of ever trying a traditional model.

Quem procura uma dark kitchen

The business model of those who rent an industrial and professional dark kitchen in Lisbon easily allows the creation of a brand concept and testing it in a specific geographic, demographic and social class area.

For example, there are restaurant owners who decide to expand their business to another geographic area and want to test it out before opening their own space.

Dan Warne, Managing Director of Deliveroo UK, explains this way of thinking well:

“The idea is to help restaurants expand into new areas, with much less cost than they would traditionally have.”

 Dan Warne,  Deliveroo UK CEO

Types of businesses operating in WEAT dark kitchens

  • New (or old) entrepreneurs who sought to create a new food concept and want to test it out, before investing in their own space.
  • Catering companies that need a production kitchen.
  • Companies that produce weekly meal packs and deliver directly to their customers.
  • Successful restaurants that want to expand their geographic area.
  • Exclusive dark kitchens companies that want to minimize management costs, amortizations and operational problems.
  • Restaurants looking to expand their kitchen or have a central production unit.
  • Food trucks that what to produce more and better food, that are impossible to produce in a small space with low equipment like a food truck.
  • Small restaurants in city centers that can't produce quality meals due to licensing restrictions.
  • Frozen meals or meal kit companies

The solution for some restaurants in city centers was the opposite of a dark kitchen. Only one service area was opened to the public, with a finishing area for cooking, with production and preparation being carried out in a dark kitchen. This way, they are able to reduce the time between ordering and delivering food, reducing production costs and operating in places where, in the traditional way, it would be impossible to have a restaurant.

dark-kitchen-weat-operation

Dark Kitchens advantages

Dark Kitchens advantages

There are a number of benefits for restaurants and businesses that choose to rent a dark kitchen in Lisbon

Lower operation costs

Not directly serving customers drastically lowers operating costs while increasing convenience for our customers.

Fewer employees are needed and the cost of real estate is much lower, without having to choose a privileged and expensive location.

It looks like a win-win situation. We just cannot say with 100% certainty, as part of the dining experience in a restaurant is lost. Therefore, food delivery and dark kitchens do not cannibalize the restaurant market.

Test new concepts

Another key advantage of the dark kitchen model is the ability to easily test new brands, menus and concepts. There are no physical assumptions to take into account when consumer food trends change. Dark kitchens can quickly switch to a completely different menu or concept at any time, adapting in the best way and at no great cost to the demanding needs of their customers. If a brand has not enough demand, the same company can simply create another brand and try again.

Greater flexibility

Flexibility and adaptability: dark kitchens are able to easily adapt to seasonal demand and even have a different concept for each time of year.

In terms of technology, dark kitchens use the data provided by their customers to improve their marketing, use direct forms of communication and have greater adaptability in real time to demand.

Process optimization and greater efficiency

There is a huge optimization of processes and efficiency. As companies focus only on food preparation processes, without having to worry about the complete management of a restaurant, service employees, equipment maintenance, etc., they are able to automate and optimize their production processes. This efficiency is essential to fight on an equal footing with larger companies, which already have these economies of scale.

Improve food quality

Dark kitchens allow users to improve the quality of ingredients and food. Healthy eating and quality ingredients are essential for today’s customers. Less fixed and operating costs means greater margin for investment in quality. Not just because of demand, we see many dark kitchens dedicate their production and marketing to better quality food.

Challenges for those who launch a business renting a dark kitchens in Lisbon

If you’ve come this far, it’s because you’re already thinking about setting up your business in a dark kitchen in Portugal. Despite the many advantages, there are also, as in any other business, several challenges.

As the purchase is often made through online platforms, the face-to-face contact between the company and the customer disappears. This represents a two-way difficulty.

First, because we miss an opportunity to communicate with the customer, read their non-verbal language and anticipate what they are looking for and want, in order to guarantee their satisfaction.

In the case of food delivery, if our delivery does not match the customer’s order, we do not have a quick way to exchange it, as in a traditional restaurant. Much less offer a glass of wine, because the kitchen was late with the order. Other times the customer himself made a wrong order, because he clicked the buttons wrongly or didn’t understand our menu. In a traditional restaurant, it is easy to correct errors made by customers, then by the service employee when ordering, or later by changing it.

Second, the concept of cloud kitchen food will be judged solely on the quality of the food. A traditional restaurant can have a charm and an associated romanticism that takes the experience beyond the food.

And here too, food delivery is dependent on third parties so that the food arrives with the quality it left the kitchen with. A courier can be late or be careless with transport and turn a hamburger into a planter.

Also, very important, remember the high commission fees of Food Delivery Apps. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you have a marketing budget to attract more direct orders.

Conclusion

We live in uncertain times, but we know that dark kitchens in Lisboa are here to stay.

We didn’t come to revolutionize the food and catering market. But we are creating value, creating new jobs and helping entrepreneurs who were out of work during the pandemic.

Some consumers are against these “dark kitchens” because they think their food is inferior, when the reality, in general, is the opposite. Other consumers have already adopted this way of ordering food, using it 5 times a week.

More offer, more innovation, more diversity is what dark kitchens offer consumers.

Less risk, less cost and less management problems is what dark kitchens offer their users.

Therefore, dark kitchens in Lisbon will still light up the gastronomic market a lot (this last metaphor was already a bit forced, but we wanted to end up in beauty and we needed a big name!).