restaurant generic
Seating yourself at the table and waiting for the food to be delivered and tasted is an experience that should never go out of style. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Good service and the dining experience cannot be delivered in a box…

So, while the concept of “dark kitchens” will affect all F&B businesses, one of the biggest threats they pose will be to fine-dining restaurants. How will customers appreciate the service and the dining out the restaurant has worked so hard to build if all they are interested now is ordering in food via a box?

The survival of the UAE’s restaurant industry depends on loyal customers who will keep coming back to no matter what. Dine-in restaurants also help create jobs locally. On the other hand, dark kitchens rely heavily on digital marketing to sell their services.

The only groups to really benefit from this are the internet giants Facebook and Google, who don’t really contribute directly to the UAE economy.

Low entry points

Also, dark kitchens will give rise to unorganised home-cooked meal services, which can pose health and safety issues. These home services can operate at lower costs compared to restaurants, who pay massive amounts to be able to function.

To be clear, I am not against home kitchens. I just want to ensure they have the same quality structure, and that they maintain the same standards that all restaurants are liable to do.

Dark kitchens therefore have become a threat as they can operate with less revenue, with minimal regulations and capture the market from brick-and-mortar restaurants whose owners have put their heart and soul to build.

Helping out

The only solution to this is for the food and restaurant industry to have a united front and appeal to authorities about rent waivers in these extraordinary circumstances, so that we can continue to run our operations.

Restaurant owners have become dependent on deliveries, especially during the pandemic. Many of us have allowed third-party aggregators to control the narrative — aggregators who have no actual interest in the survival of the restaurant business.

We’ve failed to talk to the consumer, and failed to explain to them what it means when they buy our food through a third-party. We need to take that business back now and connect with them again.

We cannot deliver a memorable service and dining experience within a restaurant to the customer’s home. The concept of dark kitchens will seriously affect how customers experience that taste many of us have worked years to perfect.

So, if landlords continue to refuse a compromise on rent reduction or waivers, many restaurants will move to dark kitchens, effectively killing the once-thriving brick-and-mortar business that took years to develop.

- Shokhrukh Yulchiev is Head of Sales at Repeat, while Shanavas Mohammed is Partner at Golden Fork Seafood Restaurants. Kunal Lahori is with Pret To Go.