Fast grocer Gorillas has opened a cafe in one of its dark London stores.
The Hampstead cafe will also offer customers a space to click and retrieve orders placed on the app, rather than receiving them via messaging.
The cafe will be operated by social enterprise Change Please and will be staffed by homeless people who are on London’s living wage and are fully trained as baristas. All profits from shop sales go directly to charity.
Repurposing an unused area of the dark store “maximizes retail space,” Gorillas said.
“This is another example of Gorillas’ commitment to adding value to local high streets, repurposing shuttered stores around the capital, while exploring partnerships that benefit local communities,” said a door- company word to The Grocer.
Although the concept of a sit-in coffee shop is new to the UK quick trade, it is not the first time that a fast food company has welcomed consumers into its dark stores.
Earlier this year, Getir launched a click & collect customer trial in several of its dark stores.
“Sometimes customers are very close to a Getir store, and picking up something nearby can take the same time as ordering something and getting it delivered by a courier,” said Turancan Salur, General Manager of Getir region. Europe at The Grocer at the time. . “It’s something we want to test.”
Gopuff operates a handful of stores in the United States that allow customers to order from an on-site digital kiosk and see their order immediately prepared behind the scenes. Locations also function as dark stores for app-based orders.
In May, grocery delivery service Nippy secured funding to open three new dark stores, which will also serve as walk-in stores where customers can browse shelves.
Experts have questioned the benefit of opening dark stores to walk-in customers.
“I find the idea quite laughable,” said Quaid Combstock, former head of delivery operations at Jiffy and now a q-commerce consultant. “If dark stores allow customers to enter, they are no longer dark stores. The point of a dark store or kitchen is that it is not open to customers. Once you allow customers in, you just go back to being a traditional retail store with a delivery element – which is far from new,” he added.
As Viv Craske, an online grocery consultant, said, “Opening dark stores to the public is a desperate decision. And there is simply no consumer need.