Food&Drink Writer Eleanor Howson takes us behind the scenes of the British takeaway industry, revealing the truth about how our Friday-night treats are made

Written by Eleanor Howson
Images by Pxhere

With students spending approximately four times the amount of money on takeaways in comparison to any other citizen in Britain, you would presume that students would be the most aware of where food deliveries are sourced from. Yet, I imagine when they order from Deliveroo, UberEats or JustEat they picture their meals being prepared in a restaurant… not a ghost kitchen!

So, what is a ghost kitchen, you may ask? It is a kitchen designed solely for food deliveries which can be located as far away from the high street as an industrial estate or a car park! They aim to assist the growth of restaurants by providing a low-cost alternative to working from a high street store. Deliveroo, specifically, have contended that they pay for the bills of their ghost kitchens.

This means that the restaurants cooking at Deliveroo’s ghost kitchens pay no rent, rates or utilities. Although, the restaurants do pay some commission to Deliveroo on each order, it is still identifiable that the ghost kitchens make the catering business far more accessible to up and coming restaurants. 

Is the value of socialising through food decreasing? Is eating out becoming less significant?

However, the working conditions of these ghost kitchens may not be quite as desirable. Sarah Butler, a journalist for the Guardian, visited Deliveroo ghost kitchens in a carpark in Blackwell near Canary Wharf, London. Butler described the ghost kitchens as ‘metal boxes of a similar size to a shipping container’ with no windows. The only ventilation the restaurants had were the doors. The chefs described the working conditions to Butler as either too cold or too hot. Each metal box only had one small heater to keep them warm if the cooking equipment wasn’t making the container hot enough already! Is this how you imagined your takeaway to start its journey? Probably not!

With restaurants setting up shop in metal boxes, without the intention of serving customers on their premises, is the value of socialising through food decreasing? Is eating out becoming less significant? As a student myself, I know eating out is quite the treat as, the weekly budget cannot stretch to fine dine all the time! But, perhaps, takeaways are now becoming an easier option than going out for a meal?

We all feel like a chilled night in watching a film with a takeaway pizza from time to time. Perhaps, the idea of having to get dressed up and brave the typical rainy British weather, just to eat out, is no longer so exciting for students? The fact that takeaways can be just as cheap as home cooking nowadays is merely another reason to stay in the comfort of your home! Yet, isn’t it a little melancholic to think the high street could slowly become just another row of houses? All our food could come from metal boxes and be delivered to our door!  

It seems ghost kitchens do seem to be just as eerie as their name suggests! They seem to be out of sight and out of mind. Next time you press order, think about where your meal may be travelling from. It may be coming out from the shadows!