So-called ‘hybrid kitchens’ that take inspiration from the dark kitchen model but can be interchanged to suit different purposes could have a future in the UK market, a leading consulting firm has suggested.
As the UK begins to ease out of lockdown, consumers fed up with home cooking and takeaways are chomping at the bit to re-engage with the UK’s vibrant food & beverage scene.
But with casual dining operators wrestling with unsustainable occupancy costs and a year of barely any profits, new delivery models are set to emerge.
UK retail property expert Pragma predicts that hybrid kitchens could have a major part to play given the dramatic changes taken place on British high streets.
“Hybrid kitchens provide a fascinating response from the industry as to how to potentially satisfy ever-changing consumer demands via a sustainable format,” said director Andrew McVicker.
“Similar to a dark kitchen, operations are takeaway focused but unlike dark kitchens, they provide a branded (changeable) fascia and in-store environment, allowing consumers to click and collect, takeaway and engage and learn about the brand.
“With kitchen facilities largely standardised, multiple brand cuisines can be created to test consumer relevance in a particular location and store front branding can be consistently changed for a relatively small cost, creating consumer interest. As the store provides a dual delivery and marketing role, hybrid kitchens are increasingly seeking prime space to increase brand awareness.”
There is a school of thought that food halls could be the saviour of town centres and the high street, but Mr McKiver said these require a critical mass of footfall to truly thrive and, on their own, will struggle to provide the length of engagement required to reverse decreasing town centre demand.
That could also lend itself to the theory that hybrid kitchens are ideally positioned to fill the void, he suggested.
“Whilst no single format will exclusively dominate the future F&B sector, if town and city centres provide the much-needed investment in public realm required to regain relevance with consumers, then the hybrid kitchen would appear well-placed as a format to appeal to consumers, occupiers and investors.”