Yawar Khan, the chairman of the Asian Catering Federation (ACF), which represents the interest of nation’s 30,000 Asian and Oriental eateries, has warned that the rise of ‘dark kitchens’ could kill off restaurants and takeaways, and with them – the entire high street.
Speaking at the launch of the 9th Asian Curry Awards, at House of Lords, on Monday 4th March, Yawar Khan, urged curry lovers to support their local takeaways – or risk losing them forever – and much more besides.
He also called on restaurateurs to up their game, take marketing seriously, build a strong brand identity and improve standards with healthier, authentic cuisine and unique offerings – rather serving than boring “me too” menus.
Industry observers are convinced that the emergence of anonymous dark kitchens – out of town centre industrial kitchens, which prepare and deliver takeaway meals which are ordered on line – are the inevitable future.
But as more people ignore their local restaurants, as they use mobile phone Apps to order from dark kitchens, they are helping accelerate a process which is destroying high street economies.
“We have already lost a vast amount of retail volume to online business – empty properties with To Let boards are everywhere,” said Khan, adding “We need restaurants to drive the football, which is vital for surviving business.”
Faced with staff shortages and rising costs, curry restaurants are already closing at the rate of two a week. Dark kitchens, with low overheads, some with questionable hygiene standards and lax attitudes towards allergen control, and poor working conditions, were criticised on a recent BBC Panorama documentary.