Barcelona may well be the first city to introduce a total ban on dark stores and kitchens, meaning grocery delivery companies will no longer be allowed to set up delivery distribution centres there. That is, at least, the intention of the city council, although the ban may be possible to circumvent.
21 dark stores to close
In Barcelona, a ban on dark stores and dark kitchens will go into effect in a few days. These are shops or kitchens where consumers cannot go directly, but that are only used as a distribution hub for couriers. In many cities, however, this leads to nuisance complaints.
The Barcelona city council also judges that distribution centres threaten (traditional) neighbourhood shops: the ban was also imposed in order to preserve them. The 21 existing dark stores can choose to either close down, transform into ordinary warehouses without home delivery or convert to regular supermarkets. Ghost kitchens – restaurants that only deliver – are only allowed in industrial suburbs of the city.
With eight branches earmarked for closure, Glovo is the hardest hit. The company has its offices in Barcelona , but is largely owned by Germany’s Delivery Hero. It is additional bad news for Glovo, on the day the company already said it would have to lay off 250 employees worldwide. No couriers or pickers will lose their job (for now), but mainly office workers at its headquarters.
Easy to circumvent?
Barcelona is going the furthest in curbing such dark stores, but measures are also being taken elsewhere. France has ruled that they should be seen as warehouses – and not shops, as sometimes argued – which means they are not allowed to set up just anywhere. Amsterdam previously banned them from residential areas and, like Rotterdam, has frozen new openings for a year – pending better regulation.
In Amsterdam, flash delivery company Getir already demonstrated a handy solution to get around the ban. It has partially opened one such dark store to the public, so consumers can come and shop there as normal. Part of the premises are still closed, but traditional supermarkets also have warehouse space, Getir argues.