How to write a dark kitchen business plan

Sam Sinha
Author Sam Sinha
Blog
How to write a dark kitchen business plan

A successful dark kitchen starts with a detailed dark kitchen business plan. But why should you be interested in dark kitchens?

Also known as cloud kitchens, dark kitchens are digital-first production units optimised for delivery orders and tend to be purpose-built to maximise efficiency.

Dark kitchens are growing in popularity – the global market is projected to reach $112.5 billion by 2027. Yet many restaurant brands are slow to make a move, preferring to operate a more traditional restaurant model.

Dark kitchens offer a huge opportunity for new players willing to embrace the evolution of restaurants into the digital world.

But you don’t want to jump in blind. In order to maximise your chances of success in this growing sector of the food industry, you need to do all your due diligence upfront.

Step one is to research the market and rigorously analyse the strengths and weaknesses of your proposed dark kitchen business model. Then write a thorough business plan that is compelling enough to entice investors to hop on board.

What is the goal of writing a dark kitchen business plan?

The purpose of any business plan is to be super clear on the details of how your business will work and how it will generate profit. It is a process to make your ideas clear to others, but it will also challenge your own ideas and refine your business model and strategy. You’ll find out if it is an idea worth pursuing and if it’s worth investing your precious time and money into.

The first step to writing a compelling business plan, either to get it clear in your own mind, or to go after investment, is to figure out your goals. Then you can define the unique selling point of your business and support this claim with hard data.

9 steps to your dark kitchen business plan

Once you have your endpoint in mind, there are a number of steps to follow to complete your business plan.

1. Define your opportunity

      It’s important to be specific about the opportunity you are pursuing so that you can dig into the data to see if it’s a viable business idea.

      You might have a hunch that a certain residential area would be the perfect place to locate your dark kitchen, for example. But when you survey the locals and interview business owners you find that it wouldn’t be viable.

      Once you’ve found a niche to exploit, rigorously challenge it by looking at the potential competition and challenges involved.

      2. Perform a SWOT analysis

        A SWOT analysis helps you identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your business idea. With external and internal influences on the vertical axis and helpful and harmful on the horizontal, you can create a matrix and list your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in each quadrant.

        This helps you remove emotion from the decision-making process and focus on the facts. Below is an example of a SWOT matrix ready to be filled out:

        3. Define your organisational structure

        It’s important to figure out the structure of your dark kitchen business and decide what the best staff configuration is for your business model to work.

        Answer the following questions:

        • What is the legal structure of your business? Is it a limited company?

        • Who are the founders and owners, and what is the proposed hierarchy?

        • What are the plans for the structure as the business grows?

        4. Incorporate future trends

        It’s vital to look forward at trends in your industry and the wider business world in order to be ready for any changes that would impact your dark kitchen. As we’ve seen recently, it’s not always possible to see massive changes coming, but it’s vital to do the research to anticipate shifts that are being talked about.

        Trends in consumer behaviour, inflation, new technology, legal and regulatory changes, tax rate changes and political shifts could all have an impact on the way you run your dark kitchen and whether it is profitable.

        Looking ahead? Read about what the future might look like for dark kitchens.

        5. Write your virtual restaurant marketing plan

        Your restaurant marketing plan lays out how you will attract and retain customers. It covers everything from the basics of creating a logo and branding, defining your messaging and setting up your dark kitchen website, online ordering and social media profiles to plans for advertising, content creation and influencer campaigns.

        You don’t need to include every detail of this massive task in the business plan itself. Still, it’s important to be clear on how your virtual restaurant will continue to attract customers and grow sustainably into the future.

        6. Identify the key benefits to your audience

        Include detail on what exactly your product or service is and how it will benefit your target customers.

        For a managed dark kitchen housing multiple virtual brands, your product is the tech-enabled kitchen available for rent. And the benefit is providing everything a virtual brand needs to thrive.

        7. List your funding sources

        List your intended funding sources, whether they are personal capital, a business loan or external investors, or a mix. Describe what the funds will be used for, for example:

        • Initial staffing costs

        • Marketing and advertising

        • Purchasing equipment

        • The build-out of your dark kitchen

        Be sure to think of every upfront cost to show how the money spent will benefit the operation.

        8. Write your sales forecast

        Financial projections are important in convincing investors that your business will be able to survive and how quickly it can pay off any debts. If you already have a business operating, prove the viability of your dark kitchen using your existing balance sheets and cash flow statements.

        If you are opening a new business, you will need to dig into your market research to come up with realistic expectations of revenue, margins and profits for the first five years.

        9. Write your executive summary

        Once you have gathered and assessed all the relevant data and thoroughly thought through your idea, you are finally ready to write your executive summary.

        Like an elevator pitch, the executive summary reduces your business plan into a quick overview. It should be detailed enough to cover the most important points but brief enough for a busy CEO or investor to quickly understand how your business will work.

        Here are the essential components of an executive summary:

        • A brief outline of what your company does and why it will succeed

        • Your mission statement detailing the purpose of starting your business and what it will achieve

        • Details about your product or service, location, workforce and leadership team

        • Plans for growth, key financials and investment opportunities

        8. Write your sales forecast

        Financial projections are important in convincing investors that your business will be able to survive and how quickly it can pay off any debts. If you already have a business operating, prove the viability of your dark kitchen using your existing balance sheets and cash flow statements.

        If you are opening a new business, you will need to dig into your market research to come up with realistic expectations of revenue, margins and profits for the first five years.

        Need help with your dark kitchen business plan?

        That was a lot of information and you might feel slightly overwhelmed. But the best approach is to work through the steps methodically until you have your idea and business model crystalised.

        With your business plan written and the insights gathered from it in mind, you can set about looking at the practicalities of setting up your dark kitchen business, from the building that will house it to the tech powering your dark kitchen.

        To help you write your dark kitchen business plan, we’ve created a downloadable guide with sections for you to fill in. Download our business plan template to get started.

        Interested? Get in touch for a quote today

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