Since the state of alarm and the curfew changed the customs of the people of Madrid, the delivery men have become part of the urban landscape. Food delivery has grown 73% in the last year, driven by cities, according to data collected by the market analysis company Kantar, which does not discriminate the data for the capital. But not all shipments arrive from restaurants. Increasingly, the various dishes that are offered at a click on the mobile have been prepared in kitchens without attention to the public.
A large, four-burner stove with two cooking plates, a small oven, and an extractor hood rule the kitchen premises of FoodCraft, a restaurant that exists only on the ordering platforms. The hamburgers and starters of the menu are prepared on the two metal countertops and then packed in boxes and paper bags, with the sticker bearing the brand’s logo.
Just above the prep area, there is a shelf with various electronic gadgets: two tablets and another pair of machines that look like dataphones. The orders are received there. Each machine corresponds to a different platform. At night, after curfew, they do not stop ringing, or printing orders.
Juan Diego Gaitán and Juan Beltrán are the partners of FoodCraft. The company started in September, but its history began at the beginning of the confinement. Beltrán, who is 25, worked as head chef at the Heritage hotel restaurant, but was fired on March 13, a day before the first state of alarm was decreed.
“I was at home for two months, until it occurred to me to set up something to prepare food at home for my friends and acquaintances; something very informal. One day Juan asked, he liked it and he suggested that I start this, ”says the cook, in uniform with an apron and mask stamped with the brand’s logo, sitting on the sofa in the small break room equipped with television and PlayStation that serves as an office . “During the week we have about 30 orders a day and, on weekends, more than 300, most of them after nine,” explains Gaitán. “In the long run we would like to have a physical location, but in the current situation this is safer.”
They were the first users of one of the kitchens hidden in a commercial space on the ground floor and basement of a three-story residential building in Tetouan. Last year the more than 300 square meters were renovated, soundproofed so as not to disturb the neighbors and equipped with eight different kitchens that are rented to restaurants that only serve delivery people. Each space is delivered equipped with extractors, the necessary machines according to what is going to be prepared and all the licenses in order.
In a matter of weeks the eight kitchens of barely 10 square meters and without natural light were filled. Now on the sides of the white corridors of the place, you can see a brand logo on each door: a pizzeria, a poke place, another burritos, cakes and several more. Each small space has mountains of boxes and paper bags that are filled and handed out to the delivery men who parade throughout the day.
But this business concept is not new. Hand in hand with mobile home ordering platforms, around five years ago establishments dedicated exclusively to preparing food to be consumed outside began to appear. Although there were already industrial and catering kitchens, in Madrid the Deliveroo platform was the first to offer the model, in 2018. Jaime Martínez de Velasco, 30, was director of this section of the company in Spain for three years and who mounted their kitchens in the capital. “Initially, the idea was to work with powerful brands and locate them in areas where there was no physical location, but where they could be present on everyone’s mobile for short-term deliveries,” he explains. Deliveroo’s stores, called Editions, are in Atocha and Tetouan and each has six kitchens.
Martínez de Velasco founded Cuyna in October and in the coming months he will open two stores, one in Manuel Becerra and the other in Paseo Imperial, equipped with 18 and 11 kitchens, respectively. For this businessman it is important not to fan the bad reputation of the sector. On the one hand, in the case of the Prosperidad neighborhood, where a company has built 38 kitchens and an industrial chimney of 25 square meters in a residential block, which has caused complaints from residents; also due to the conditions of the distributors, who are the basis on which this expanding business is built. For this reason, he says, their premises are in commercial buildings, they have a waiting room for delivery men and they promote collaboration.
“Right now there are two major trends that respond to the growing opportunity. There are big brands that have built their own kitchens, according to their requirements, and then shared kitchens like ours, which are more for small and medium-sized businesses, ”explains Martínez de Velasco.
This model adapts to different profiles of entrepreneurs who want to avoid the risks of having a dining room, those who want to test the market and those who seek to expand their business from another neighborhood or city. They assure that, with an investment of 10,000 euros in materials and marketing, a restaurant can start up in two weeks, since there is no need to spend locally and the licenses are already granted.
Christian Lucco’s company, Madrid Ghost Kitchens, offers rental spaces with kitchens for these businesses. “They call us with different types of properties. Some that are ready, such as restaurants that have closed, we can start offering them immediately, and others that have to be worked on. But we have rejected quite a few premises, because people hear all this fury and think they can use their premises and turn it into 10 kitchens. It is not so easy ”, explains this Argentine businessman. These are the difficulties of a business model that, with home delivery, has managed to maintain many companies in a pandemic.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.