Since the onset of the pandemic last year, London has seen a plethora of dark kitchen, virtual kitchen or ghost kitchen startups. As it turns out, these kitchens have no tables or wait staff as they only prepare food for delivery services. These operate in spaces such as shipping containers, retail spaces or other empty rooms. Whatever be the location, the principle is the same everywhere. These operators equip the spaces with modern kitchen equipment so that they can prepare and sell their dishes via delivery operators.
Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic has also increased demand for home delivery due to the restrictions imposed on dining out. Industry experts believe that dark kitchens are changing the restaurant industry with traditional restaurant dining, and the concept of eating out are left in the shadows amidst the pandemic crisis. As per reports, restaurants in London are said to sell an additional 900,000 meals a week via popular services such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats.
While the industry in the UK is dominated by prominent players, including Cloud Kitchens that acquired FoodStars, Jacuna Kitchens and Karma Kitchen, there are others that are pretty interesting. Let’s take a look at the dark kitchen startups in the UK that are revolutionising the food industry right now.
Founder/s: Eccie Newton, Gini Newton
Founded year: 2018
Total funding: £272M
Karma Kitchen, a London-based startup, is a provider of shared and private kitchen spaces used for businesses to grow and scale. Its services include a workspace that encompasses the complete needs of the food and drinks business with everything ranging from kitchen porters, community managers to top-of-the-line equipment that enables food entrepreneurs and businesses to have affordable and shared kitchen spaces.
In 2020, Karma Kitchen received $318 million (nearly £240 million) Series A funding from Vengrove Asset Management, a real estate investment control corporation. With this investment, the company plans to open more sites in the UK and continue to expand elsewhere in Europe this year.
Founder/s: Anton Soulier
Founded year: 2017
London-based Taster is a comprehensive digital restaurant platform, which is powered by innovative first-party technology. It operates via a unique licensing model, which enables the company to rapidly launch a range of successful digital restaurant brands that offer high-quality meals. Taster has opened its kitchens across 40 cities and listed them on food delivery platforms such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats.
In April, Taster bagged $37 million (nearly £32 million) in a Series B funding round from Octopus Venture, Battery Ventures, Latitude, HeartCore, GFC and Founders Future. After operating its own kitchens, Taster intends to partner with existing restaurants that don’t get traction on delivery platforms.
Founder/s: Salima Vellani
Founded year: 2019
Kbox Global based in London builds bespoke food brands, maximises commercial kitchen space efficiency and optimises productivity to increase food sales. It operates a dark kitchen business based on an end-to-end technology platform connecting kitchens with top-performing delivery first food brands. The company works with more than 30 delivery-only restaurant brands.
In September 2020, Kbox Global pocketed £12 million funding led by London-based venture firm Balderton Capital. It announced that the funds will be used for international expansion in India and Australia, and help Kbox establish its presence in the USA in early 2021.
Director: Thomas Peter Mountford
Founded year: 2020
Jacuna Kitchens operates from sites in a slew of UK cities including London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. It plans to operate from many more on the horizon. One of its sites, Camden N1 is due to open in Spring 2021 comprising 16 kitchens with walk-in fridges and freezers. Jacuna offers exclusive benefits and reduced fees through their partnerships with Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat.
Founder/s: Will Beresford
Founded year: 2015
FoodStars is a startup that provides commercial kitchens to rent for food and drink companies. It is located in prime London areas including Shoreditch, Vauxhall, Bermondsey, and Bethnal Green. The startup was acquired by CloudKitchens in 2019. Uber Co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick’s food delivery startup CloudKitchens secured $400 million worth from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund.
Founder/s: Jonathan Boud
Founded year: 2020
Kitchen Ventures, a cloud kitchen operator based in London, operates with a mission to make fresh, delicious, and chef-cooked food accessible to every neighbourhood via its network of cloud kitchens. The company develops and launches chef-centric and influencer-based brands and partners with renowned chefs to run their own takeaway and offer food delivery, enabling customers to get a unique and high-quality restaurant experience in the comfort of their home.
Earlier this year, Kitchen Ventures secured £1.4 million from London Impact Ventures, a VC firm. The investment will be used to expand the company’s network of kitchens across London and international markets.
Founder/s: Jonathan Petrides, Alex Petrides
Founded year: 2016
AllPlants is an internet-first restaurant that serves plant-based frozen meals. The company offers a weekly meal box with 6 meals for 2 people priced at £57. Customers can buy meal boxes either as a one-time purchase or subscribe to get the boxes on a weekly basis. Meals are delivered in insulated containers in a carbon-neutral manner at £3.5 delivery charge.
In 2020, the vegan delivery company AllPlants closed an equity crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs at £3.5 million. Felix Capital, the VC behind Deliveroo participated in the round along with Simon Nixon of Seek Ventures, Anne-Maire Huby, co-founder of JustGiving, and Amit Gudkha, co-founder of Bulb Energy. It was announced that AllPlants will use the funds to develop new food categories and serve over 60,000 meals a week from its 20,000 square feet dedicated plant-based kitchen in London.
Founder/s: Adrienne MacAulay, Gordon MacAulay
Founded year: 2017
Parsley Box is an Edinburgh-based direct-to-consumer service, which provides ambient ready meals focused on the underserved baby boomer demographic. The startup delivers nutritious, quick, and simple-to-cook meals, thereby giving senior customers a high level of independence. Best-selling dishes of Parsley Box include Cottage Pie, Lamb Hotpot, Lasagne, Sweet and Sour Chicken and Beef Stew from a menu of over 60 main meals and a range of desserts, cakes, wines, spirits and more.
In January this year, Parsley Box bagged £5M funding in a round led by Mobeus Equity Partners. This follows the funding it raised previously from the same investor. The investment including some Scottish entrepreneurs. It will be deployed for the rapid expansion of the service and to make Parsley Box a household brand. Also, the funds will be used to provide ambient ready meals to the fast-growing segment of the UK population.
Founder/s: Nimesh Sachdev
Founded year: 1972
Dephna is a company providing commercial kitchens and refrigerated cold rooms to the food and drink manufacturing industry. It offers delivery-only kitchens in London with benefits such as flexible pricing, 24 hours access, customisable kitchen spaces, car parks, loading bays and lifts and necessary food accreditations.