Why Deliveroo is moving its food delivery services from the underbelly to the high street

Hong Kong – Deliveroo has invested heavily in the emerging delivery-only kitchen space, making it the global leader in the field. The brand faced criticism for initially setting up so-called ‘dark kitchens’ under the name Deliveroo Editions to cater for restaurants seeking to expand without the price tag attached to high-street properties. Shipping container-like sheds fitted out with industrial kitchen equipment equalled unfavourable working conditions for chefs. ‘The boxes have no windows and many of the chefs work with the doors open, through which they can be seen stirring huge pans or flipping burgers,’ wrote Sarah Butler for The Guardian in 2017. Consumers, though, were none the wiser. All they were doing was clicking a button for their favourite hamburger to turn up at their door while picturing the spaces they frequented before they could order from the comfort of their couch.

Deliveroo’s latest breed of delivery-driven concepts rises from the underbelly to the high street, signalling that the brand wants more bricks-and-mortar presence in the field – a presence that’s subject to less scrutiny than the dark kitchens mentioned in The Guardian, many of which are doubtless still in operation. Interestingly, pick-up seems to be a strong consideration, too, suggesting a bid to connect with its clientele through such spaces.

In Hong Kong’s Wan Chai, for instance, multiple restaurants operate from one high street location designed by London-based agency 3stories. After ordering food through the Deliveroo app, they unlock their own heated cabinet to collect their food upon arrival. Customers can also place an order via the in-house iPads and watch their food being prepared through VR headsets while they wait. Will this gimmick encourage visitors to participate in a service that typically disconnects diners from meal preparation? Will it instil a sense of security to meet the growing hygiene concerns brought on by the coronavirus?

Jordan Littler, founder of 3stories, says the team’s approach was ‘to strip back the core components of the traditional takeaway store in order to maximize on the visual impact, making it easy for new or existing customers to understand the offer. This design also allows for a scalable concept that can be easily rolled out throughout multiple sites around the world, either staffed or unstaffed.’ Signage is kept simple so that each restaurant can use its own branding for customer recognition.

Deliveroo is also expanding its Editions sites, having received three times more Editions-related enquiries and expressions of interest from its restaurant partners since the start of 2020 compared with the six months prior.


Read more about what the swift adoption of home food delivery has meant for the design of establishments largely – and even solely – for the cause in our upcoming issue, Frame 135, out 1 July.

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