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Deliveroo & Dark Kitchens

Former Head of Operations, Deliveroo Editions, Middle East

Why is this interview interesting?

  • Cost of building and size of an average dark kitchen
  • Take rate, fee structure, and commercial relationship between Deliveroo and restaurant brand in dark kitchens
  • Contribution profit per order for aggregator and restaurant in dark kitchens
  • Risks for restaurants using dark kitchens
  • How aggregators can vertically integrate to commodotize restaurants in the value chain

Executive Bio

Norman Njooro

Former Head of Operations, Deliveroo Editions, Middle East

Norman is the Former Head of Site Operations for Deliveroo Editions in Dubai and the Middle East region. He joined Deliveroo in 2017 as site manager where he was responsible for rolling out and ramping up new kitchens across Dubai which is the most profitable region for Deliveroo. Norman was then promoted to run Editions Operations in Dubai where he managed over 60 restaurant partners in the Dark Kitchens across 5 sites. He now runs dark kitchens for hotels and works with all major aggregators in the Middle Easts. Read more

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Interview Transcript

Norman, could you start by sharing some context and background to when you joined Deliveroo?

I joined Deliveroo back in May 2017, so around Q2. I joined as an operations manager and my job was, basically, to help open the Editions site, work with the team and build from one site to two sites, as much as we could, in terms of expansion. My job was to recruit the team, follow the SOPs, the standards and meet the KPIs that were set by the company, to achieve success and profitability.

Then, gradually, from there, within a year, I got promoted to senior site operations manager and then, lastly, promoted to head of site operations, managing five sites, with a total of 100 staff; 30 staff with Deliveroo Editions and the other 70 staff looking after the restaurant partners.

How is Deliveroo Editions structured and set up?

The way Editions was structured was that I was reporting to the general manager for Editions. We had a GM for Editions, globally and then we had a GM after him, who was Nigel. From Nigel, it dropped down to head of site operations, then down to the site managers. From the site managers, you had assistant managers, or GAs, as we liked to call them. Then from there, you had the runners. These were the people who were running back and forth, picking up the bags and all that stuff.

Then on the other side of Editions, we had the commercial team, which was headed by the regional manager, that was Yousef. Yousef had his team, which were dealing with the commercial side. They dealt with bringing in restaurant partners, working on the commissions, working on the commercials, in terms of which restaurant partners you can bring in; which brands are visible, in those areas? The head of Editions regional, then it was the head of commercial and then you had the Editions commercial manager and then you had the Editions site managers.

What is a dark kitchen and how does it work?

A dark kitchen is, basically, restaurant kitchen that operates on a delivery model only. The order comes on the online platform, either an aggregate or a restaurant platform. You place your order; your food is prepared by the kitchen; it’s packaged and sent to the customer.

Where are these kitchens normally based?

They could be located in any location you choose. They could be in residential areas, industrial areas; they could be in apartment buildings, in the basement or they could be in standalone locations, away from residential or office areas. You can have them in any location but, the main thing that you are looking at, is buildings that are self-contained, that at least have electricity water and all those facilities. You want to have minimal complaints from residents and have no power cables, power plants nearby. It should be in an area where it’s convenient for whoever wants to build the kitchen site, as an investor, and also make sure it is in the correct locality. If you just have the kitchen in the desert, it’s not going to work out.

It doesn’t have to be in a prime location; it could be in any location, within the area or the vicinity that you are looking at and it could be in a building, apartment, basement, car parking. You should be able to change it from a car parking to a kitchen, as long as you have enough structure for the conversion, like the H-box systems and things like that.

Typically, who finances the build out of the kitchen? Is it Deliveroo or is it a third party?

There are two different ways. There are those who have the funding, for example where Deliveroo will have the funding; then there are those who have investors.

So Deliveroo pays for the build-out cost of the kitchen?


On average, how much do they typically cost?

On average, you are looking at building a kitchen that is around 2,000 square feet and that is about three million dirhams.

Is that just that the equipment and the build out?

If I’m looking at a small kitchen, 2,000 square feet, six kitchens inside, you’re looking at a minimum of £800,000 to £1 million. This includes the kitchen equipment, the H-box system, the brick and mortar, tiles and that is the cost you are looking at.

That’s for a decent prime location, in Dubai?

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Deliveroo & Dark Kitchens

August 3, 2020

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