Panino Italiano Magazine

To be dark kitchen or not to be

Panino in English by Emeline Dany 22/05/2020

While some countries start unlocking some activities, the future of the restaurants does not sound promising. 

By Emeline Dany

In Italy, rumors went out that in an 80 square meters restaurant, 20 customers only will be allowed. 

What do you do if you have a rent that you can afford with a full capacity of 50 persons and not 20? 

In some capitals, the rents can reach outrageous figures, which has led to a massive turnover over the past few years. Until now, you could maybe resist with an approximate management. With the new challenges of today, it seems impossible to survive without an optimized business model. 

Some restaurant owners in front of the social distance restrictions have already thought to move to less expensive areas. But is it that easy to find bigger spaces in packed cities? Would you put at risk your business going to an area where you have lower visibility?  

Making evolving a business in that context is not that easy and some actors decided to benefit from the rise of online sales and deliveries to move to a dark kitchen concept. 

Dark kitchen, those 2 words have become famous in Milan in less than 6 months, everyone from the field talks about it. 

But in which context dark kitchen can ensure your success? 

There are 2 models dark kitchen applies to: 

1. You want to develop a new food format/concept and you start from scratch. 

2. You want to make you current business model evolving. It could be your restaurant is so tiny, that with today social distance rules applied to your layout, it would mean potentially welcoming 4/5 persons at a time, leading to uncovered costs. 

Everyone heard about the pros of a dark kitchen: 

.  Staff cost optimization: no staff serving and or required to welcome the customer, 

. Space optimization: no need to respect bathrooms rules for customers (in Italy) or layout adapted to handicapped people (elevator, bathroom…), 

. Rent cost optimization: 

. no need to find the perfect geographical area, with the  right  windows visibility and public transport, or parking lots nearby, 

. lower rent,

. possible synergies with another brand to share the space (and the costs): eg. you work during the day, your partner works during the night. 

. Logistics optimization: commodity for unloading the deliveries, 

. etc.

But let’s review a bit more in details the implications of dark kitchen. 

Scenario 1. you start from scratch: 

People living in Milan and looking for a pokè today on Deliveroo are in front of  an overwhelming offer. Have you thought how a customer makes a choice among a hundred of virtual brands? 

Of course, there are the customers’ reviews and the pictures, but considering we’re talking about raw fish, with all the risk it implied (anisakiasis worm); so how would you trust a name you don’t know? 

How a new business can gain trust? What are the tools you can use knowing people won’t have the opportunity to put a face on your product?

Via an online presence (site…)? Using influencers? Press networking?

How would you make people come back to you after a first trial?

Remember we live in a liquid society as say Baumann, and people get bored easily and tend to look always for something new. 

You should definitely consider it before developing your new dark kitchen business.

Brand awareness will be key.

Scenario 2. Making your current business evolve: 

This is probably the option that interests the most the food actors of today. 

A dark kitchen will imply new challenges.

How will ensure to remain visible on the market? Have you seen how many sponsorized posts have been released over the past few weeks? Everyone  started sponsorizing on the socials,  you could end lost in middle of commercials. 

How will you keep your food identity alive if there is not a plating or someone to narrate it? Packaging? Customized  printed message?

If your force was the service and the conviviality, how do you recreate at distance? 

As soon as the product leaves your place, how do you ensure they will keep its integrity? 

Delivery is always challenging, and unboxing a dish completely smashed will not lead to a satisfying customer experience. 

This is a lot of questions to consider you may think. 

Well our objective is to highlight the various steps to consider for a successful business. In the context we live today, restaurants can’t be seen as a place offering good food and emotions only, restaurants are more than ever small enterprises that need business rational. 

So before considering opting for a dark kitchen as it seems the new perfect solution, try to think about all the aspects of your project. Designing a project at 360° is a good pillar for being successful. Good luck!

Are you interested in these topics? Would you like to join one of our webinars dedicated to business abroad? Contact us at!

Learn about new creative solution to restart your business during this difficult time in this article.

Emeline Dany

Emeline Dany

Food Strategist

Francese, appassionata di cibo e design. 

Dopo 10 anni nell'industria come project manager nel miglioramento dei processi e il change management, decide di specializzarsi in Food Strategy. 

Convinta che si impari tutta la vita, dopo un master in Management & Marketing in una grande école francese, e una formazione in Design d'interni allo IED, ha avuto l'opportunità di partecipare al primo master in Food Design della SPD, lanciato per l'EXPO 2015. Ha seguito anche i corsi sommelier dell’AIS.

Nel 2016, sviluppa la sua propria metodologia di consulenza per progettare customer solutions a 360 gradi e si mette in proprio.

Insegna allo IED “ how to design a food experience” dal 2017. 

Nel 2018, avvia La Baghet, un concetto di eno -boulangerie su ruote e di organizzazione di eventi francesi (catering, corsi di cucina, degustazione). 

Scrive le sue esperienze di foodie sul suo sito e profilo instagram @lescalopemilanaise

Il suo sogno:

"Contribuire a rendere il mondo più bello per tutti attraverso il cibo".

>Per il consumatore: migliorando il suo quotidiano grazie ad esperienze gradevoli.

>Per l'imprenditore: assistendolo nella realizzazione del suo progetto di aprire un locale, pensando ai piccoli dettagli che fanno la differenza.

>Per il produttore: promuovendo la tradizione e il cibo di qualità.

English version

French, in love with Food & Design.

After 10 years in the industry field, as Project Manager in charge of Change Management & Product Launch, she decided to specialize in Food Strategy.

A lifelong learner, after earning a Master's degree in Management & Marketing and completing an Interior Design program , she had the opportunity to attend the first Master's program in Food Design, launched for the EXPO 2015 by the Scuola Politecnica di Design in Milan.

​In her free time, she also attended Sommelier courses.

In 2016, she created her  own methodology to provide food strategy consulting and design 360° solutions adapted to clients’ needs.


Because today’s customers get bored more easily and tend to be less loyal than in the past.

Because we live in a world where advertising and interior design are not enough to make a restaurant or a food retail concept successful.

Because nowadays, it's essential to design not only the space but the food and experience we offer to our customers.

Since 2017, she teaches “ how to design a food experience”  in IED school.

In 2018, launched La Baghet, a concept of eno-boulangerie on the wheels  and organization of french style events (catering, corsi di cucina, degustazione).

She writes her foodie experience on her site and insta profile: @lescalopemilanaise.

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