Entrepreneur Dark Kitchen: Lyon’s Food’Lab is expanding to Rennes, Annecy and Nancy

Dark Kitchen: Lyon’s Food’Lab is expanding to Rennes, Annecy and Nancy

Food Lab is complete. Not on the dining room side, but on the kitchen side with 36 “dark kitchens” for hire for catering delivered to Lyon and Grenoble. The Lyon-based start-up, which had inaugurated its pilot in September 2020 in Villeurbanne, now manages three other sites comprising 6, 12 and 17 independent professional kitchens under one roof.

There rub shoulders “young chefs in incubation, well-established Lyon brands that rent to expand their catchment area with delivery, and external players who have come to test the local market at little cost”, explains the president, Raphael Roques. For a monthly rent of 1,500 euros for 25 m2, the occupants of these “blind kitchens” share the refrigerated bin room, the toilets, the changing rooms with laundry and shower, the bicycle garage and a rest and conviviality area – also accessible to delivery people.

Click-and-collect platform

Food’Lab does not manage orders or deliveries for the sixty or so street-food brands housed within its walls. But she offers a common click-and-collect platform. On the Lyon Vaise site, inaugurated on January 10, the concept has evolved slightly with a larger offer, up to 60 m2, for the needs of large accounts like its star client, the burger specialist Five Guys .

Petit Poucet facing global operators like Cooklane, with a turnover of one million euros in 2021, Food’Lab is no less greedy: the start-up which aims for 3 million revenues in 2022 opens in Rennes at the end of January, and in Annecy and Nancy before the summer, with several Lyon or Grenoble brands in the luggage. She already has borrowed 3 million euros to finance its costly installations in terms of land and works and raise another 4 million (2 in capital, 2 in debt) for future establishments. “We are courted by economic developers,” says Raphaël Roques.

No scooter gatherings

The three co-founders, who had graduated from a hotel school, were looking for a place themselves in 2019 to cook. Not finding any, they changed plans to become lessors, in a digital catering market that could represent 20% of commercial catering turnover in 2024, according to a study by Food Vision Service. “With us, no one works in a garage, everything is up to safety and hygiene standards”, claims the leader to defend a model pointed out.

“We are looking for independent premises, such as warehouses or sports halls, but without straying from the city center, otherwise we would lose our market,” he says, “a little worried” about The dark kitchens are spreading outside the capital, the chefs are mobilizing .

The Food’Labs of Grenoble and Lyon-Vaise have an interior courtyard “to avoid gatherings of bicycles and scooters on the sidewalk”, underlines the supporter “of supervision and regulation”, anxious to “disturb the least possible “. As for disgruntled restaurateurs, he invites them to “adapt, like taxis with Uber. The demand is there, we have to respond to it”.

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