As increasing numbers of us turn to our phone apps to order food in instead of cooking a meal, how much will ‘dark’ kitchens impact on way domestic kitchens are designed in the future.

According to figures from market analyst NPD Group, the UK takeaway delivery market grew from £2.4billion to £4.2billion – that’s a 73% increase – between the years 2008 and 2018.

Reaching for the phone has become second nature to a generation of increasingly time-poor consumers, who are becoming less inclined to spend precious moments preparing their own meals.

Added to that, the arrival of Deliveroo, Just Eat, Hungryhouse and UberEats has disrupted a market that was previously dominated by larger restaurants, enabling smaller food outlets to have a slice of the pie.

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But as restaurant kitchens have struggled to cope with soaring demand, a new phenomenon has emerged. ‘Dark’ kitchens can be found in disused warehouses and portacabins, near abandoned buildings and in car parks, but always within close proximity to densely populated urban areas where demand for takeaways is high. Inside these temporary structures chefs churn out takeaway meals on behalf of local eateries.

According to The Guardian, Deliveroo has 66 dark kitchens, or ‘Rooboxes’, that it rents out to local restaurants, and the company has plans to grow this number further and expand across the UK.

According to NPD, the food delivery market is expected to increase by 10% every year to £5billion by 2020, and as this plays out, the number of these dark food production facilities is bound to increase too.

The implications for the UK high street are clear – the more people are inclined to stay at home and eat their ready-made food, the less likely they are to head out for the restaurant ‘experience’ and eat in an actual restaurants.

Added to this, figures from the latest Wellbeing Index reveal that almost a third of British adults eat alone ‘most or all of the time’.

So why does this matter? While the notion of the open-plan kitchen as a food-prep, dining and socialising space may be the ideal for families, the number of single-occupancy households is on the rise, and this does begin to have implications for the design of the kitchen itself.

If householders are less inclined to prepare meals for themselves, how much do they actually need ovens, fridges, and cupboard space to store food?

And as living spaces become ever more compact, is anything more than somewhere to put crockery and cutlery, and the ability to heat food when required, even necessary?

However, one element that can’t be overlooked is the fact that fundamentally we are sociable creatures. While the size of apartment kitchens in new rental developments may be shrinking, designers are still factoring in a vital component – the communal kitchen and dining space. Being alone may be a side effect of hectic modern living for many, but sharing our down time with others still remains the ideal for most.

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