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How kitchens changed during the pandemic

How kitchens changed during the pandemic

The emergence of the “dark kitchen” was something we touched on midway through the pandemic in another article. These premises – also referred to as “ghost” or “cloud” kitchens – cater exclusively to takeaway customers with no public access. Now, in part thanks to the pandemic, dark kitchens are a huge industry.

Fuelled by services like Uber Eats and Just Eat, the takeaway food industry’s value is estimated to be a staggering £8 billion. This is set to grow, particularly as these establishments keep overheads so low. By occupying less desirable real estate, from storage spaces to shipping containers, dark kitchens pay a fraction of the rent a regular restaurant would face.

As a result, many traditional establishments are looking to get a slice of the action. That said, with these benefits come challenges – namely in regard to kitchen design. Here, we look at the implications for those looking to diversify their business long-term.

Tapping into the takeaway industry

Perhaps one of the most crucial questions around dark kitchen installation is MEP; these often poorly ventilated spaces require extensive fit-outs to ensure they’re safe working environments. Equally, the spaces need to be well laid out. As they’re often small and cramped, designers need to problem-solve to create workable kitchens.

If a restaurant is looking to establish a dark kitchen, say for instance in some disused space on their premises, they need to take these questions very seriously. The same goes for if the restaurant is deciding to expand its existing kitchen in order to cope with the volume of takeaway orders. How do you ensure the heat and ventilation systems can cope with the extra throughput? Naturally, an experienced MEP designer will play an integral role.

Another design question is access. If couriers are going to receive takeaway orders exclusively from the dark kitchen, how do they get to it? Often, traipsing through the dining room isn’t going to be an option. Or, will staff take the deliveries to the curbside? If this is the case, access routes and health and safety need to be carefully considered.

Planning is paramount

It goes without saying that the coronavirus pandemic has transformed our everyday lives. Furthermore, it transformed the way we think about health and safety and how we navigate space. For example, standing less than a metre apart in a queue now feels like a distant memory. Together, these three things are set to radically the change hospitality industry for years to come.

The demand for takeaway food is soaring and restauranteurs will be eager to meet the demand. Thus, kitchens are transforming – they’re expanding, contracting, and morphing. As ever, keeping staff and customers healthy and safe is of paramount importance, so it’s essential these spaces are well designed.

To ensure successful business diversification – and not least to keep local authorities off their backs – the restaurant industry needs to collaborate closely with MEP engineers. Only then can we create new, sustainable business models for the post-pandemic moment.