How the dark kitchen trend is arriving in Languedoc-Roussillon

Driven by a fundraiser which saw Olivier Sadran (president of Newrest and holder of the Tolosa investment fund) and the two rappers Big Flo & Oli enter its capital, the Toulouse group Foudie, co-founded by Thibaut Ghorifa, Félix Fioro and Clément Mulsant, laid the first stone of its development in Languedoc-Roussillon by settling in Montpellier.

“Since opening in December 2020, our restaurant in Toulouse has recorded steady growth of 10%, with a daily average of 180 to 250 orders per day and an average basket of 25 euros, says Felix Fioro. With capital contributions from fundraising (confidential amount, editor’s note), we will be able to develop rapidly, first in the southwest, because we are all very attached to this region. Three new openings are also planned by June 2022 in Bordeaux, Toulouse (second location, editor’s note) and Paul”.

Ten virtual brands

The entry into the capital of Oliver Sadran is not surprising. In an interview with our colleagues from The gallery in Toulouse, the Toulouse entrepreneur, who has created an empire in out-of-home catering with Newrest, said he wanted to tackle this new market. More surprising, on the other hand, is the participation of the two rappers Big Flo & Oli.

“These are people from Toulouse that we know personally: they have an appetite for catering, especially fast food, and they like digital”, summarizes, laconic, Félix Fioro.

Located outside the Ecusson, on avenue de Toulouse in Montpellier, the Foudie brand, open since January 6, 2021, is the first dark kitchen in the city. Twelve people work there full time, with a brigade structured like a classic restaurant (chef, second in command, etc.). Based on the same concept as in Toulouse, the culinary offer revolves around ten virtual brands (Korean fried chicken, Japanese sando, kebab, burger, cellar and aperitif…) and should expand in the coming days. .

Accessible via delivery platforms, Foudie claims to have already captured its target market and believes that it can achieve its ambitions in the short term: to do as well as the dark kitchen in Toulouse, which in 2021 achieved a turnover of 1.2 million euros.

“With 90 to 160 orders per day, we are within our forecast”, loose the co-founder of Foudie.

15,000 euro investment

Galvanized by the context, the dark kitchens make a few opportunistic investors in the market salivate. street food, but above all restaurateurs who see this as a way to reinvent themselves, at a lower cost. If Foudie has invested between 200,000 and 300,000 euros in work to bring its premises in Montpellier up to standard, other proposals seem attractive.

Thus, in Perpignan, the French real estate management company Chemarin has been mandated for the pre-marketing of five dark kitchens (from 25 to 30 m2 each) located in the city center (the address has not yet been revealed). Candidates will have to invest nearly 15,000 euros (10,000 euros of lease rights, 3,000 euros of lease, 1,800 euros of individual meter), not counting the equipment of material, then honor a monthly rent of 750 euros. The contract remains advantageous in view of the costs associated with traditional catering, the fairly limited risk taking and the diversified offer.

“The five companies will have to offer different cards, says Cécile Chemarin, manager of the company Immobilière Française de Gestion Chemarin. Specificity clauses will be put in place to avoid competition. We expect original proposals from them, why not menus from a starred chef or a caterer. We are open to all suggestions. »

The project could see the light of day before the summer.

“Absolute Vigilance”

Still, these ghost kitchens are not unanimous. Some are already worried about unfair competition, an objection brushed aside by Brice Sannac, hotelier-restaurateur in Banyuls-sur-Mer (66), president of the Union of Trades and Industries (UMIH) of Pyrénées-Orientales and member of Chamber of Commerce : “You have to accept that the world is changing… I am in favor of innovation, of multiplying the offer. Dark kitchens are representative of new consumption patterns and are not in direct competition with traditional catering. On the other hand, absolute vigilance will be needed to ensure that the hygiene, safety and equipment standards of these kitchens are 100% respected”.

An opinion shared by Frédéric Guillaumon, deputy in charge of trade in Perpignan: “The dark kitchen project in Perpignan was not officially presented to us, but I find the idea very positive. This responds to a demand in tune with the times, a new way of consuming that foreshadows the cuisine of tomorrow. Naturally, we will remain very vigilant as to compliance with the rules”.

In Toulouse, however, a group of residents launched a petition against dark kitchens, evoking urban transformation, noise and olfactory pollution.

“The problem of the Chalets district, in Toulouse, is very different because it was a real estate operation to create boxes, objects the co-founder of Foudie. Our policy is very strict in terms of compliance with standards: we choose to set up on very busy roads but which are not necessarily in the city center. We also received a very warm welcome in Montpellier. »

Undeniable symbols of a new civic way of life, the dark kitchens are not the end of the debate.

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