Aubervilliers (AFP)

Less than 30 minutes from the click of an order to the plate.

The boom in meal delivery, accelerated by the health crisis, has led to the proliferation in the Parisian suburbs of "dark kitchens", these hyper-rationalized kitchens designed to prepare dishes for delivery.

Noon service on the "Editions" site of Deliveroo in Aubervilliers, a popular town bordering the capital.

On the ground floor of a building in a working-class neighborhood, teams of cooks push the fires in large, fully-equipped boxes, arranged around a central corridor.

In their pots, the "bibimbaps" of the Franco-Korean chef Pierre Sang, the "bo buns" of Petit Cambodge, the burgers of PNY ...

The six brands present here have physical restaurants, often in the trendy Parisian arrondissements of the 10th and 11th centuries, but second employees to this site of around 500m2 to manufacture and sell their dishes beyond their historic location.

A new order is displayed on the tablet in the kitchen.

The cycle begins again, broken in and clocked like a factory chain.

The cooks' gestures are clear, quick.

The ingredients are placed within easy reach, the menu designed to be prepared in a short time and withstand transport.

As soon as it is finished, the dish is placed on a cart in the hallway.

Warned on his screen, a "runner" placed at the beginning of the corridor rushes to look for the bag and brings it to the counter overlooking the courtyard.

There, a delivery man assigned by the algorithm grabs it, gets on his scooter and starts immediately.

It all took less than a quarter of an hour.

Operational since April, this dark kitchen sauce Deliveroo is the third in France for the delivery platform and strengthens its two sites already in operation around Paris, in Saint-Ouen (Seine-Saint-Denis) and Courbevoie (Hauts-de-Seine) ).

The company makes these kitchens available to restaurateurs without charging rent, but at a higher commission on orders leaving them.

- Coexistence -

"We are not going to set up in the heart of the city where there is an incredible density of restaurants, we are going to look for the hollow tooth, the area where there are gaps" in terms of catering offer, explains to the 'AFP Damien Stéffan, spokesperson for Deliveroo.

And therefore particularly in the suburbs where restaurants are fewer and diverse.

Aubervilliers cuisine thus allows Deliveroo to better serve this city of 86,000 inhabitants, but also to cover parts of Pantin, Saint-Denis or Bobigny.

Just for 2021, the British company intends to open 4 or 5 additional "Editions" sites in France, especially in the southern suburbs to complete "surround" the capital.

The idea of ​​this strategy "is to allow suburban residents to access street food restaurants in the city center", explains Matthieu Vincent, from the consulting firm DigitalFoodLab.

From its 350m2 kitchen in Romainville (Seine-Saint-Denis), the Click & Savor start-up serves four "virtual restaurants" which can only be ordered by internet.

Depending on the brand, the menu offers focaccia sandwiches, risottos, Taiwanese or Thai street food.

For its co-founder Jérôme Malot, dark kitchens allow traditional and virtual restorations to coexist.

For a restaurant, "it's complicated when you have customers to see the door open every five minutes with a delivery man who comes to pick up the order," describes this former UberEats.

If all observers note that this model of 100% delivery kitchens is booming in France, no one however knows their exact number as the sector is young and diverse.

Of the 20,000 restaurants listed in France by its website, Deliveroo estimates that dark kitchens represent "a few hundred".

Director of the Tripletta pizzeria, originally from Belleville and present in the three dark kitchens of Deliveroo, Valentin Bauer also sees the latter as a means of testing the market to open “hard” restaurants.

The brand is already thinking about opening a store in Saint-Ouen, having noticed a strong demand for its Neapolitan pizzas there.

Because for the entrepreneur, the order of priority is clear: "the basis is the physical. Delivery is what comes in addition."

© 2021 AFP