Bringing ‘dark kitchen’ training into the light
Gamified learning can satisfy the hunger for skills in a fast-growing sector of the catering industry…
They’re known as ‘dark kitchens’, but they hold the potential to shine a bright light on the future of the hospitalityindustry.
It’s the growing trend for restaurants to prepare meals for home delivery in off-site kitchens, away from traditional eating outlets where meals are served to diners in person.
The dark kitchens – also known as ‘ghost’ or ‘cloud’ kitchens – are not as ominous as they might sound.
They work in the same way as normal commercial kitchens – except that the brigade is separate from front-of-house functions, and one busy kitchen can cook meals for a variety of outlets, which are then biked to customers who order through delivery apps, website or on the phone.
The model brings benefits to businesses – economies of scale in sourcing ingredients; recruiting staff; and sharing costly catering hardware to name just three.
‘Hot new chefs’
And despite occasional murmurs that ‘dark kitchens’ may be a recipe for poorer culinary standards, industry insiders reject the notion. One of the big UK players is Deliveroo Editions, a series of off-site kitchens run by the Deliveroo chain.
A spokesman for Deliveroo said: ‘Deliveroo Editions are … a platform to support start-up restaurants, helping hot new chefs launch for the first time, or well-loved restaurants reach fans in new places.
‘Given their delivery-only nature, the chefs are focused solely on creating the ultimate home dining experience.’
There’s also an argument that dark kitchens fuel growth by sharpening the appetite for in-home dining, which swells the size of the restaurant sector pie.
Dan Warne, MD of Deliveroo UK, told Rebecca Wearn, BBC News business reporter: “We’ve helped the industry over the last five years by bringing a dine-in experience to a customer at home. Incrementally that’s adding 30% on top of the sales that these restaurants are already achieving.”
Online and on-screen
A revolution in the way meals are prepared for home delivery also spells a revolution in training. There’s a growing mass of employees who need upskilling to adapt to new challenges.
It’s also clear that recruits are likely to come from the so-called Generation Z of 18-25-year-olds – a population that’s unsuited to traditional classroom-based training. They’ve spent their whole lives online and onscreen – and the digital technology and devices they know, love and understand are the same as those which ignited the rise of home delivery – accelerated by pandemic and the ban on eating out.
In fact, the entire model of businesses such as DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats are based squarely on a preference for digital technology over other forms of communication.
This means that gamified simulation learning ideally suits the dark kitchen sector – perfect for training chefs, and those who deal with customers.
Attensi creates tailor-made, game-based training that can replicate the special demands of a hot, busy kitchen – and allows people to practise techniques and master new areas of knowledge in a risk-free environment, where actions are repeated until they are flawlessly grooved and become second-nature.
An element of leaderboards and friendly competition make learning addictive, fun and something people want to return to again and again.
Training is delivered via devices which people already carry around with them all day, every day – so it can be completed anywhere, anytime, with maximum flexibility and convenience.
Hannah Stevens, a Business Development Director for Attensi’s Hospitality and Leisure sector, said: ‘We know that gamified simulation learning is a winner in any industry. Our experience shows that there isn’t a sector or group of employees anywhere that can’t benefit from this style of learning. But the potential for success with dark kitchens is especially rich.
‘This is a fast-growing industry which plunges people into high-pressure, hot, busy environments. We can recreate that environment perfectly and help them to learn their skills and absorb the knowledge they need well away from the hot plates, bubbling pans and sizzling woks.
‘It’s safer, more effective, and promises a quicker route to competence and consistency.’
That’s important, because turnover of catering staff is notoriously fast.
Businesses want their workers to stay and become better at their jobs.
The best way to achieve that is by building their skills quickly, so they feel valuable and valued from the start.
‘A well-trained, skilled worker is a happier worker. They are more likely to stay and grow with the business,’ said Stevens.
Gamified learning is also a proven winner in tackling big challenges which all hospitality businesses face.
It can deliver masterclasses in:
✅ Customer service
✅ Improving consistency in explaining menus and ingredients
✅ Listening and acting on feedback from customers – and in perfecting systems to gather and analyse data
✅ Training on standard operating procedures (SOPs)
✅ It also generates data which highlights learning needs across teams
✅ That’s important, because dark kitchens are here to stay
The global market size of the sector was valued by Statista at over $56bn in 2021. It calculates there were more than 13,000 dark kitchens globally in July 2020 – with the most in China (7500), followed by India (3,500), USA (1,500) and the UK (750).
Stevens said: ‘Businesses will carry on delivering delicious, restaurant-quality meals to discerning diners all over the world if they get their training right.
‘The secret sauce to achieving that goal can come from gamified simulation learning, and Attensi is happy to serve it up with our clients.’
Book a demo today and find out how Attensi can transform training for your staff…