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Suppressing dark shops is the latest headache for fast food delivery in Europe

When Barcelona decided to crack down on dark shops, it opened a new chapter in the story of fast grocery delivery. In January, the city government new restrictions rolled out on buildings used by the likes of Glovo and Getir, which were expanding relentlessly.

These startups use dark shops as distribution centers for their fast deliveries. Couriers drive in and out of buildings all day to pick up goods for customers. However, the facilities have led to resistance in many European cities. Residents complain about noise levels, couriers congregating on the street and the encroachment of urban spaces that the public cannot reach.

The criticism has led to a wave of protests against dark kitchens. These restrictions are another obstacle to starting deliveries, job cuts, consolidation and a deteriorating economy.

These issues are changing the fate of an industry that boomed during the pandemic. Often with delivery times of 15 or 20 minutes, many companies with superfast speeds had started promising groceries to your door, even if all you wanted was a carton of milk, a loaf of bread, or a six-pack of beer.

The crucial tools to make this possible are dark stores or mini-fulfilment warehouses spread across a city in strategic locations close to densely populated areas. To achieve massive scale, you need a lot of facilities to cover a city’s main markets.

Therein lies the crux of the dispute with city officials — and more authorities are starting to take action.

‘Strict rules

Glovothe Barcelona-based delivery giant, is at the forefront of this changing fast delivery landscape.

The company, which began delivering food from restaurants, has invested heavily in the grocery segment in recent years. The company also has together with real estate company Stoneweg to purchase property to serve as dark shops. It now has 100 dark stores or micro fulfillment centers (MFCs) in multiple countries.

Sacha Michaud, co-founder of Glovo, told TNW that the new rules in Barcelona are the strictest the company has seen to date.

“Our position on this is that it’s a rather strict way of dealing with the problem that a lot of other cities haven’t taken,” he said.

If you have a neighborhood and someone wants to set up a restaurant under your apartment building, the neighbors probably aren’t too keen on that. They will have a lot of people walking in and a lot more movement, but that doesn’t mean you have to do away with restaurants in our cities.”

Glovo co-founder Sacha Michaud