Five key components to creating a successful dark kitchen in Dubai

With a rise in dark kitchen openings in Dubai, there are a few important elements to consider before launching. Here, Gabrielle F. Mather, CEO & Founder of UAE-based restaurant consultancy Restaurant Secrets Inc. shares five tips to operating a successful dark kitchen.  

In a city where delivery-only restaurant models thrive, Dubai has seen a steep rise in dark kitchen concepts launching over the last 12 months. As consumer demand heightens – particularly in suburban areas of Dubai where delivery radius’ often don’t reach – interest to open new dark kitchens surge, especially given the attractiveness of a lower overall investment cost when compared to opening a fully-fledged dine-in restaurant.  

For those looking at opening a dark kitchen, either to start your first virtual restaurant in the cloud or to expand your current operations into new territory, here are five key things to consider and build into your operations:  

1) Consider your location and its delivery radius   
Location is key for any dark kitchen. It’s imperative that a dark kitchen’s surrounding areas be densely populated with residential accommodation. A delivery radius should be limited to around 10km – 15km, so you want to make sure there’s enough people living in that area to order from you regularly. Barsha South, Hessa Street, Al Quoz, Deira and Karama are all great locations for a dark kitchen.  

2) Offer a small, focused menu  
Dark kitchens thrive on crave product. Menus should be concise and focused, whether that be pizza, fried chicken, burgers, pasta, ramen or doughnuts – pick one thing and do it really, really well. When a consumer can relate the best bowl of ramen with your brand specifically, you’ll see return custom time and time again. Dishes on your dark kitchen menu should be created with delivery and travel in mind; some food items simply do not travel well – no one likes soggy chips – so be mindful of your packaging and travel time before placing a dish on the menu.   

3) Get quirky and fun with your branding & packaging  
People love brands and concepts that spark playfulness and fun. When you’re competing with so many brands on a delivery platform, it’s important that you stand out. Focus on high-quality imagery and intriguing branding to attract your customers – not only does it draw them in, it also encourages social sharing when a delivery shows up to someone’s home in packaging that’s fun and ignites conversation.Packaging is a big part of a delivery model’s brand identity, and while high-quality packaging is vital for a successful delivery, be sure to design and develop your packaging collaterals with trends and cost-effectiveness in mind as you’ll be using a lot of it, and the cost will add up quickly.  

4) Create a strong sales strategy that features regular promotions 
Not only do people love getting a deal, delivery platforms feature special promotional sections that help you get noticed. Whether it’s running a buy-one-get-one deal twice a month, a free size upgrade, or a free dessert with every main course, promotions like this help you to get noticed, attract new diners and draw previous customers back for more. Having a strong sales strategy is key to success, and using digital platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok to voice your activations helps to get the word out.  

5) Build strong relations with key suppliers and aggregators 
Delivery platforms rule the roost where dark kitchen business models are concerned. The bottom-line after you do all your strategic math is that these platforms do offer value for money when you compare the benefits. An aggregator is a partner in marketing your brand, building your product awareness, managing your logistics of delivery as well as acting as a mediator on customer service and feedback. Building good relations and activating all marketing channels with your aggregators can be the difference between success and failure. 

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