Carpark cuisine
October 28, 2017 10:18 AM   Subscribe

A tatty car park under a railway line is squeezed between a busy road, an industrial site and a semi-derelict pub covered in graffiti. It’s one of the grittiest parts of east London and probably the last place you would imagine some of the trendiest eateries in the country to be preparing meals. But the grimy spot is just a short moped ride from the gleaming office towers of Canary Wharf and upmarket docklands apartments, and is therefore the perfect location for the latest idea from Deliveroo, the food courier service. It is setting up dozens of “dark kitchens” in prefabricated structures for restaurants that want to expand their businesses without opening expensive high street premises.
Sarah Butler, How Deliveroo's 'dark kitchens' are catering from car parks, The Guardian (28 October 2017).

The "Deliveroo Editions" concept is a key part of the tech company's growth plan, underwritten in part by the £210 million in venture capital funding it raised in 2016. However, Deliveroo is already facing a backlash in Britain from both council planners and residents, who claim that the company has not sought planning permission for a number of the sites. Residents complain of constant moped noise and loitering drivers:
One site in Camberwell may close because neighbours have complained about the noise of Deliveroo delivery drivers turning up on mopeds, and because the site doesn't have planning permission. Brighton and Hove council is similarly investigating a pop-kitchen in Hove, while Haringey council said it hadn't received a planning application for Deliveroo's site in Hornsey, north London.

... Southwark councillor Mark Williams said: "The council is concerned by Deliveroo's use of the Valmar Road trading estate as their kitchen pods are close to people's homes, are clearly disturbing the residents and they didn't apply for the necessary planning permission.
Shona Ghosh, Deliveroo reportedly failed to ask council permission to build some of its pop-up kitchens, Business Insider (9 October 2017).

Responding to Southwark residents' concern about the new business model's impact on their local communities, a Deliveroo spokesperson said:
“Deliveroo has taken the necessary action in relation to planning permission for our active sites and pre-launch sites. We will always work closely with local councillors and residents to improve our operations, and will address any concerns raised. Deliveroo Editions is a revolutionary new platform that will enable hundreds of restaurants to reach new customers in cities around the world, without needing new high street premises.
posted by Sonny Jim (14 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Sadly, they're taking advantage of a defanged regulatory environment, because there clearly isn't the money to do the necessary planning enforcement around this. Both the delivery only Pizza Hut or Domino's branches in my city had huge planning objections due to the traffic that they'd cause, and the smells, and everything else. These are absolutely the same in terms of impact.
posted by ambrosen at 10:28 AM on October 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

Putting the ethics of the gig economy to one side for a minute, the economics of these companies don't stack up. Deliveroo made £1m profit on £130m of sales last year in the most benign economic conditions imagineable. A tiny downtick in consumer confidence and/ or interest rates creeping up by a quarter of a percent and they're gone. The economics of UberEATS are hilariously bad, Take, Eate, Easy is gone. This segment is going to get culled.
posted by dmt at 10:33 AM on October 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

Are the people working here getting paid as decently as those in the fancy high street versions? What about the social contract and employment benefits?
posted by infini at 10:37 AM on October 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is not the smartly funny and capricious snow crash future I wanted.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:42 AM on October 28, 2017 [17 favorites]

I couldn't help but notice that the Grauniad article lacked any photographs of the working conditions inside of Deliveroo's windowless boxes, mentioning only that workers end up propping the door open for air.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:26 AM on October 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

OH! The article also mentions that when it’s cold, the only available heat is a small fan heater.

This sounds miserable and unsafe. So in a lot of ways, kinda like a regular restaurant kitchen, actually.
posted by bilabial at 11:38 AM on October 28, 2017

This segment is going to get culled.

So you think someone is going to eat their lunch?
posted by chavenet at 11:55 AM on October 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Closer to Morlocks and Eloi every day.
posted by jamjam at 12:20 PM on October 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

So, the delivery company model is uber where it concerns people who should be employees, but instead are contractors not paid minimum wage.

The chefs are employed by the restaurants, who I think are leasing space in these shipping container kitchens.

The shipping containers sound like unsafe, unpleasant working conditions, even by restaurant standards, which are pretty lax.

It's pure profit taking by the executive team that owns the delivery brand, with the only investment being some cheap ass painted shipping containers which cost a few thousand pounds, and seed capital to a uniform company, since the riders have to pay for their own kit.

That it's gotten so far in England surprises me, generally that sort of evil is tested on American workers first.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:48 PM on October 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

That it's gotten so far in England surprises me, generally that sort of evil is tested on American workers first.

Perhaps austerity measures have led to cutbacks in food-prep-area inspections, or planning and zoning is more exploitable there? I can't imagine these being up to US code. Not sure if it's a lack of enforcement or a loophole in UK regulations but it certainly seems like the sort of thing that shouldn't be permitted, even if Deliveroo claim the FSA is keeping an eye on them. I wonder if the 'pop-up' aspect means they close down or move before getting full permits.
posted by halation at 1:39 PM on October 28, 2017

I’ve only read the first linked article so far but I didn’t see any mention of health or safety inspections in these unpermitted kitchens.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:04 PM on October 28, 2017

Third para from the end of the Guardian article:

"Dan Warne, Deliveroo’s UK and Ireland managing director, admits the company did not move quickly enough to speak to the council and residents in Southwark, but says Roobox kitchens are clean, hygienic and checked by the Food Standards Agency."
posted by halation at 2:07 PM on October 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sounds like all of the shit bits of working in a kitchen with none of the buzz or interaction that can make it fun 😞
posted by KateViolet at 4:58 PM on October 28, 2017 [4 favorites]

The Food Standards Agency is there to make sure food is what it says it is, is safely handled and prepared etc. - all the things you'd want to ensure your meal isn't going to kill you. It has nothing to do with working conditions or the safety of the building the food is prepared in and all the rest of the concerns raised here.

The fact that the company didn't check this first with the council, and makes no reference to the Health and Safety Executive (which does cover working environments) in its statement ought to be a red flag.
posted by YoungStencil at 1:39 AM on October 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

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