The Virtual Restaurant: the latest trend on the food scene

Uber Eats riders on the job.

By Lynn Rusk

A new trend has been tipped to take over the food scene in the coming year; the virtual restaurant.

With the rise in popularity in home entertainment subscriptions like Netflix and Amazon Prime and a desire to save money, more people are likely to order food in as opposed to eating out at a restaurant.

A virtual restaurant brand is defined as a delivery-only brand which are usually run from ‘dark kitchens’ owned by aggregators such as Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats,

These ‘dark kitchens’ often trade from an industrial estate rather than a traditional retail location, and can also be run from under-used conventional restaurant premises.

NPD market research group said that British consumer spend on restaurant food delivery could grow by 10 per cent in 2019 to reach £5 billion.

They said that the core appeal of virtual restaurants is they can begin trading quickly, are relatively cheap to run and are flexible, thanks largely to the lack of overheads such as dedicated retail premises and waiting staff.

Deliveroo has around 400 ‘virtual restaurants’, while Uber Eats aims to have a similar number by the end of 2018 and Just Eat is entering the market now.

Dominic Allport, insights director with The NPD Group, said: “While Britain’s food service industry is grappling with all sorts of cost pressures, it is showing that it can recognize and address a host of new trends. Britain’s delivery market will see a new phase in 2019. As consumers eat more meals at home, they’ll have more complex requirements, and this will strengthen the role of delivery aggregators.”

Johnny Smyth, manager of Montpeliers restaurant, and Emilie Dubois from La Barantine share their views on this new trend.