Gulf Business

At your doorstep

The appetite for dark kitchen concepts has grown significan­tly in the UAE, writes Zainab Mansoor


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 software 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 soughtafte­r 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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