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Aug 12, 2021 4 min read

What is a ‘Dark Kitchen’?

Wiser! Essays: Dark Kitchens is a $43 billion market. These are the off-site locations built solely for preparing home delivery meals. And it's big business. But why is it being kept so secretive?

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Why Dark Kitchens are so secretive?

The global ghost market is estimated at $43 billion, according to Statista. China is the country with the most ghost kitchens. But it's rising elsewhere around the world as populations stayed locked down in their homes, unable to go out to eat. It’s the rapidly growing and highly competitive sector of commercial kitchens that only prepare food for the food delivery marketplace.
Fuelled by lockdowns, this sector is growing rapidly, but it is a controversial and competitive space.

The locations for these commercial kitchens can be controversial depending on the neighbourhood they operate from. And the treatment of gig economy workers raises many questions.

Because these Dark Kitchens don’t serve customers in a restaurant on the High Street, they can set up shop in lower costs locations where the aesthetics are unimportant (but the nuisance factor may be high).

Employees sign NDAs that prevent them from discussing their place of work or even listing it on their LinkedIn profile.

This report by Freya Pratty for Sifted found that Uber founder, Travis Kalanick is behind a growing network of Dark Kitchens across Europe.

What the reporter found is that they are highly secretive operations!

dark kitchens
China has the largest market in the World for Dark Kitchens

A highly competitive sector

Dark Kitchen operators in Europe include Glovo, Deliveroo, KarmaKitchen and Curb.

  • Deliveroo plans to double the number of dark kitchens it has worldwide across this year.
  • Spanish delivery giant Glovo, 12x dark kitchens in Spain, Italy, Ukraine and Georgia, has “plans to expand to additional countries”
  • London based Karma Kitchen plans to open 53 sites across Europe in next 5 years
  • Belgian startup Deliverect and competitor Otter sell software to help restaurants manage online food orders
  • Virtual food brands include Future Foods and London-based Taster have set up ‘delivery-only' food brands across the continent
  • UK startup Kbox plans to roll out its delivery-only brands to 2,000 kitchens by mid-2022.

Can we rely on the moral compass of BigTech?

Earlier this year, an Italian court determined that "companies can be held liable even if an algorithm unintentionally discriminates against a protected group."


The AI in question was used by Deliveroo to rank and offer shifts to riders. It worked by making an assessment of a driver's "reliability".

If a driver failed to cancel a shift within 24 hours, they were determined to be unreliable and marked down. The court found this to be discriminatory because the algorithm failed to take any reasons or mitigating circumstances into account.

Last month, Garante, the Italian watchdog, ordered Foodinho to pay a €2.6 million fine and change their AI algorithms.

Foodinho is a delivery firm owned by Spanish startup Glovo. The watchdog had look at the management of Foodinho's 19,000 riders and decided that they unfairly discriminated against the gig workers.

You may recall that last year a court in Spain ruled that "workers were employees and not freelancers" in a case that upset the apple cart for the tech firms in the gig sector.

The firm in question was also Glovo.

As a result, Madrid is currently proposing legislation to give unions access to the algorithms that tech companies use to manage their workforces.

Across the European Union, the EU has initiated an open consultation on this whole issue and protecting workers rights. In the UK, the Supreme Court ruled that Uber drivers are entitled to worker rights, such as the minimum wage.

Source: Sifted

What do you think?
Leave a comment below and join the debate.☟

w/Further Reading

‘Dark kitchens’ serving food delivery apps are everywhere, but what goes on inside? Source: The Guardian

Trade show launched dedicated to dark kitchens. Source: Catering Insight

Are Ghost Kitchens the Future of the Restaurant Industry? Source: Lightspeed

ChinaTech, CBDCs, Twitter, AI, Uber, El Salvador and Lemonade
Wiser #37: China’s CBDC rollout is on track according to expert Richard Turrin; Twitter opens up its algorithms to scrutiny for AI bias; Uber saves lives and a roundup of the top stories from September.

Semi-autonomous delivery robots could save lives in Turkey. Source: Mashable

Lead tweet in a Twitter thread on Dark Kitchens
Semi-autonomous delivery robots could save lives in Turkey – Strictly Robots
Robots to the rescue?

w/About Wiser!

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