As we move into level 3 of lockdown, which allows food to be collected and not just delivered, we take a look at some of the takeaway menus and models that restaurants have put in place. Many restaurants are offering some really interesting innovations, riffing off their sit-in menus to create a new offering for dining at home. In this series of articles we’re going to be exploring the different takeout options, and chat to restaurant operators and chefs to find out how they’ve adapted. Here, we chat with Larry Hodes from The Dark Kitchen and Arbour Cafe.

The Dark Kitchen and Arbour Café

Why did you decide to open? We always knew that when the opportunity to open for deliveries came we would open. Since The Dark Kitchen is a new brand in the food delivery market we have to take every opportunity we have as we do not have the history of being a well-known and trusted brand such as Arbour Cafe.

How are you handling operations? There are quite a few extra checklists that we’ve implemented. For example, our drivers have very specific protocols that they follow when they deliver the meals to the guests.  We were fortunate that with The Dark Kitchen we had a lot of the systems and processes in place. When we launched, we wanted to ideally spend more time on getting as much as possible correct before launching the next menu option. However, with Covid-19 and the lock down we had to speed up the process and now we have added Tex-Mex and Mediterranean to the menu sooner than we initially anticipated.

With Arbour Café, we had to reduce the menu, work on packaging and ensure that what we placed on the menu could travel. For example, we can’t offer breakfasts with fried eggs as they don’t travel well.

We are open every day of the week. While I have 34 staff members between the businesses, one of the key things was to ensure that since we could not open for normal business and only open for delivery, we make every effort to constantly watch our labour costs. This leads to us only using 6 staff members for now and ensuring that everyone’s productivity levels are high.  The focus now is to continue growing the delivery so we can bring more of our staff back.

Ordering and delivery model? We have just completed our online ordering platform on The Dark Kitchen website and app. For now we also use Uber Eats and Mr D, however because of the large commissions that they take, we are spending more of our marketing money driving people to order directly from us – through our website, or to call and place their order. With The Dark Kitchen, we have our own delivery team.

Safety Protocols? When staff arrive, their temperatures are taken with an infrared temperature gauge. All staff have to complete a daily questionnaire on how they are feeling and if there are any health issues. We have sanitiser all over the kitchen and prep areas. We do daily safety talks before the shift starts. All staff always wearing masks and gloves. Delivery staff are sanitising their hands not only when doing a delivery, but also when they return. They also sanitise all the delivery equipment after each trip, such as the food hot box, credit card machines motorbike handles etc. Managers are always repeating various hygiene topics throughout the day to keep it top of mind. A key thing that I keep on telling my staff is that yes, it is something that we have to do, but more than that it is our responsibility that we do the right thing from our side

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