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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Steamy, fast and tasty: the “ghost kitchens” that supply restaurants

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Before you order your pizza and you could consider yourself well served if it arrived at your table in 20 minutes; Now, in the middle of the coronavirus era, “ghost kitchens” and home delivery applications mean that even sophisticated dinners can reach homes in record time.

The business model of so-called “dark kitchens“, that emerged in London, i.e. only preparing food for home delivery has been promoted in Latin America by the multiplication of home delivery applications in the last three years.

In the context of global contingency, they could become one of the most buoyant sectors.

The incursion of powerful investors threatens to snatch this loophole that allows small investors and domestic cooks to breathe.

Change of course

The passion and human need for food have led firms such as Alsea, the operator of more than 3,403 restaurants in Latin America and Europe, to announce a strong commitment to this type of food service.

“While we have hundreds and thousands of restaurants that have had to close, the ‘dark kitchen’ has emerged as an important business alternative,” Gustavo Huerta, executive director of BlueBox, a business accelerator, tells Revyuh.

The firm has taken a turn at the helm and is now dedicated to promoting this type of restaurant, in which there are no longer waiters, tables or chairs.

The model began to be promoted in Mexico in the last three years in parallel with the high demand for high quality and fast food, which many traditional restaurants could not meet.

And the health emergency only triggered the engines.

The order that is received through a digital platform is sent to the kitchen unit closest to the customer that is available to prepare the type of dish that they have ordered: from a simple order of tacos to a barbecue or any food.

The secret is that these kitchens work as a production plant, with standardized steps and that they generate the dishes with maximum efficiency.

Alsea, the largest restaurant operator in Mexico and one of the most important in Latin America, recently announced to its shareholders that it will make a strong investment in food service from the “ghost kitchens”, to serve some of the well-known brands that include to Burger King, Italianni’s, Domino’s, or Starbucks.

The food sector firm reported that so far “12,000 orders have been placed through our dark kitchen model.”

The same technology that was developed to integrate home applications, known by the anglicized “delivery”, was used to operate the models of “dark kitchens”.

“In the coming months we will continue the expansion of this type of unit,” Alesa said in a report sent to its shareholders.

Fall and rise

During the quarantine months of April and May, Alsea’s sales fell 61%.

The company claimed that due to the implementation of new business models and the development of its own platform, Wow Delivery, the drop was less than expected and at the same time its operating costs were reduced.

According to a Statista Market Outlook report, some 18 million Mexicans order food online and this year the market is expected to exceed $ 1.3 billion in orders.

Investor Huerta explains to Revyuh that, in this sector, “‘ghost kitchens’ are companies created according to demand and are leveraged in technology.”

The health contingency caused by COVID-19 has also led many consumers to be more careful with the dishes they order.

It is not surprising that, while politicians discuss whether face masks save lives, if vaccines will arrive sooner or later and from where, or on what measures are effective or not, diners gradually leave their homes fearful, with great caution, especially in countries like Mexico, where almost 60,000 deaths horrify anyone.

The expert reflects that compliance with all the steps to preserve hygiene “is a plus for ghost kitchens.”

Standardized processes are beginning to spread in an industry determined to please the simplest or most extravagant tastes. After all, hygiene and palate rule.

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