what type of commercial lease to choose for this new activity?

In a general context of uberization of meal consumption patterns, the health crisis and the administrative closure of physical restaurants have led to the development of a concept of digitalized catering which tends to become permanent: the dark kitchen.

Through this article, we invite you to discover a business model that shakes up the codes of traditional catering and which obviously raises questions on the legal level.

What is a dark kitchen ?

Imagine a restaurant existing only online, without a reception room, without a server, consisting of a professional kitchen and benefiting from optimized access to the premises for delivery people, this is the concept of dark kitchen !

Born in the United States, the dark kitchen is above all an immense virtual restaurant not intended to receive the public but whose main activity consists in providing professional restaurateurs with a fully equipped kitchen, located in the inner suburbs in order to optimize delivery.

More concretely, it is a large area, fully equipped and divided into several professional kitchen areas. These spaces are then sublet or made available to restaurateurs usually for a fee proportional to the turnover achieved on site.

Why the model of dark kitchen does it attract more and more restaurateurs?

The dark kitchen is surfing two strong expectations : for restaurantsthat of benefiting from fully equipped premises at a lower cost and for the customersthat of being delivered without delay and at a reasonable price, at home or at their place of work.

If we focus on restaurateurs, this concept presents the advantage of considerably reducing their operating costs since the rent will be much lower than that generally applied in a shopping street and the payroll will also be reduced since there will be no server on site.

Moreover, this option is often sought by the restaurateur who does not wish to undertake work or suffer the hazard of frequentation of his restaurant. By choosing this formula, he will therefore be able to devote himself without delay to his core business, namely the preparation of meals.

For the lessor, this involves setting up a real space of coworking catering. This solution makes it possible to effectively remedy the vacancy of certain Parisian warehouses and to revitalize the outskirts of large cities. A point of attention to emphasize here is the need for the lessor to carry out major work, often expensive, to install the professional kitchens and ensure that they comply with the standards applicable to the sector.

Under what contractual form should a dark kitchen ?

Several types of contract can be considered to regulate the rental of a space of dark kitchen whose :

The status of commercial leases

Governed by Articles L.145-1 and following of the Commercial Code, the status of commercial leases offers a strict framework for both the lessor and the lessee. Very briefly, it offers the lessee the advantage of ” commercial property since he is entitled, at the end of the lease, to the renewal of his contract.

However, this concept of dark kitchen seduces at first sight for its flexibility and could be considered as a fixed-term trial for the restaurateur who would potentially wish to settle in a traditional commercial premises in the medium term.

In this case, the status of commercial leases often appears to be too restrictive for both parties.

The short-term derogatory lease

The derogatory lease can be analyzed as a ” trial lease » allowing the lessee to verify that the place is conducive to the development of a business and the lessor to verify the financial solidity and the seriousness of his tenant.

The derogatory lease does not allow the tenant to benefit from the right to renew the lease or to receive any compensation for eviction.

The choice of this contractual form must be made with caution because a number of mandatory rules related in particular to the duration of the said contract apply.

The service contract

This contract is not limited to the provision of premises to the professional. The contract must include the supply of one or more services.

About the dark kitchenit is often a question of providing a professional equipped kitchen, of proposing the referencing of the restaurant on the internet (when it is a marketplace such as Deliveroo or Ubereats) or even help with the design of menus .

Subject to careful drafting of the respective obligations of the parties but also the services owed by the service provider, this type of contract often proves to be very suitable.

In our opinion, the dark kitchen should not be considered as a mere passing phenomenon, but rather reflects new consumption patterns and our new expectations.

However, these digitized restaurants must integrate into the catering ecosystem within which traditional catering, an undeniable source of conviviality, will keep its place of choice.

(Photo credit: iStock)

Article written by


Yaelle Molho

Yaëlle Molho is a lawyer at the Paris Bar and agent in real estate transactions. She specializes in real estate and commercial law. On a day-to-day basis, she advises companies, in particular real estate…

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This text is published under the responsibility of its author. Its content does not in any way engage the editorial staff of Les Echos Solutions.

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