Dark Stores & Dark Kitchens

Let’s talk about a hot topic and a business that’s expanded rapidly with the rise of mobile applications and home delivery. I call them Dark Store and Dark Kitchen. These activities appeared in 2010 in the United States, and for the most precursory in 2015 in France. They are based on a common concept: an order is placed remotely by the consumer, usually via a mobile application.

The order consists of preparing groceries for Dark Stores and ready-made meals for Dark Kitchens. And these preparations are delivered directly to his home, usually by drone. These activities, which do not involve the presence of consumers, developed strongly after the business crisis in urban centers. Their location has recently been regulated by the purpose of the premises in which they operate.

First of all, the framework was created on the initiative of the Paris City Council. They consider Dark Stores to be warehouses, if not customer reception centers. And it criticized market players for exploiting premises previously dedicated to commerce. The PLU of Paris prohibits the conversion of existing ground-floor premises into warehouses.

However, in the absence of a prior declaration of change of use of the premises, Paris City Hall has enjoined companies operating Dark Stores on the ground floor to return the premises to their original commercial use. This position was confirmed by a Conseil d’Etat ruling on March 23, 2023, and concomitantly with this set of circumstances, by a ministerial decree issued the day before on March 22, 2023, which defined the concept of “warehouse” to include premises operating Dark Stores, since the Conseil d’Etat had not issued a ruling on Dark Kitchens.

However, the decree of March 22, 2023 defines the premises housing these kitchen laboratories. They create a specific sub-destination, different from that of the warehouses, known as the kitchen sub-destination, dedicated to online sales. It should be noted that Dark Kitchen’s activity is not the same as that of a restaurant, which covers buildings used for on-site or takeaway catering with customers.

It’s the absence of clientele that sets Dark Kitchen apart from conventional restaurants. These new regulations come into force from 1st July 2023 onwards. Dark Store and Dark Kitchen operators should be vigilant when leasing premises, checking that non-commercial activities are authorized after consultation with the local PLU, which may or may not allow them to be set up, and subject to a prior declaration of change of use.

If applicable, whether any businesses were previously operating there.

The Distinctions