A Central Kitchen and a Dark Kitchen. What's the difference and can they work together?

The emergence of central and dark kitchens is due to the ever changing consumer behaviour and provides many opportunities for those within the restaurant industry.

Our industry leads the way in finding innovative solutions to satisfy demand while reducing overheads but decreasing the amount of food waste.

These two types of kitchens, allow restaurants to follow a path of growth by operating a streamlined and consistent approach to production.

Here we explore both the central and dark kitchen concepts closer and assess whether there is room for both in a business model.

A Central Kitchen/Central Production Unit (CPU)
A central kitchen sits at the centre of restaurant kitchen operations and offers space to store and prepare food for different sites, all from a centralised location. They can be used by smaller footprint establishments who don’t have enough storage or space for food preparation and who may want to maximise their dining space.

What are the benefits?
1. Increases efficiency
A central kitchen/CPU is where all food is stored and prepared. Having those ingredients all in one place helps to track inventory, manage production and better serve customers. The production process can be automated, allowing employees to focus on other aspects of the business.

2. It’s cost effective
Having everything in one place cuts costs. Having the space to store ingredients also allows the business to buy in bulk and with inventory tracking, there will be less waste.

3. Allows for increased growth
If products are produced in one location, it opens a business up to having lots of smaller stores throughout an area or city. Larger batches can be produced centrally and distributed to the wider network, improving margins, efficiency and maintaining quality control.

4. Consistency of product
By having a centralised production process, recipes can easily be replicated, creating a consistency of quality across the restaurants. This is great for the customer because they can expect the same quality whichever site they purchase from. It’s invaluable to the business because they’re able to guarantee the same levels of consistency.

5. Other income opportunities
If there are times when the central kitchen capacity isn’t fully utilised, the space can then be offered to smaller restaurants or pop up stalls to enable them to increase their operational capacity.

A Dark Kitchen
Dark kitchens are also known as ghost and cloud kitchens. They refer to a location which solely concentrates on producing food for delivery. They’re generally closed off from the public and because consumers aren’t usually aware their food has been produced in separate premises, they’ve become known as dark kitchens.

What are the benefits?
1. Cost effective
Using a dark kitchen allows a restaurant to avoid the cost of using their own on site space for delivery only. If delivery is something that is a new addition to a business, but it lacks the ability to operate from their existing premises, then a dark kitchen is the perfect solution.

2. Offers flexibility
Dark kitchens can be set up and operated anywhere. If there’s an area the restaurant needs to serve with the utilisation of delivery partners like Just Eat , Uber Eats and Deliveroo or your own click & collect/delivery service, then a dark kitchen satisfies those objectives.

3. Automation
The delivery sales channel becomes an automated process and so the dark kitchen concept offers the ability to simplify and focus on the wider operational process.

4. Quality and consistency
Food preparation on a larger scale means that multiple brands can be produced at the same location, with the same consistency and quality.

5. Utilisation of technology
Dark kitchens rely on technology to communicate a consolidation of orders directly to the kitchen from all sales channels including aggregators such as Deliveroo/Just Eat/Uber Eats, as well as click & collect partners. POS terminals/hardware are now no longer required.

These technology solutions provide data around the demand levels, like for like sales over a specific period and delivery partner variances, pushing expected production figures to the site as and when required. This gives a business real insight into the sales and operations.

Both are very different concepts but have one aim in common. To allow restaurants to satisfy market demand by automating production and integrating all other sales channels into their business model.

If a restaurant were to use a central kitchen to deliver pre-prepared items direct to sites across a specific geographical area and then use a dark kitchen to satisfy their delivery only customers, it means their reach gets wider and more importantly has fewer additional complexities.

Automation generates opportunities and when production is taken off site, further ways to grow are identified and realised.

Centegra Plus is the complete platform to manage both. Through automation, integration and consolidation, central and dark kitchens can be managed and used to focus on expanding existing and exploring new markets.

We deliver solutions for digital kitchens to enable them to automate, integrate and consolidate.We deliver solutions for digital kitchens to enable them to automate, integrate and consolidate.

Centegra Plus consolidates EPOS transactions, delivery partners, kiosks & click and collect into one platform.

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