What are Dark Stores?

/ Convenience & Grocery Stores, Foodservice Tips / June 23

Grocery Store Clerk with Groceries and Bag - What are Dark Stores

One of the biggest trends we’re currently seeing with grocery stores is the adoption of dark stores. These tangential grocery stores are similar to ghost kitchens wherein they can expedite the ordering and fulfillment process for customers while maximizing efficiency for the business. Learn more about these stores and see if it’ll be a good option for your business.

What are Dark Grocery Stores?

Dark stores are grocery stores that focus specifically on fulfilling online orders. These types of stores don’t have in-person shopping, and many will often darken their windows to indicate that—hence the term “dark stores.” They’re also known as “micro-fulfillment centers” since their primary function is like a shipping fulfillment center. 

How do Dark Stores Work?

When a customer places an online order—either for curbside pickup or delivery—an employee will take the order and collect all available items. Once this part is completed, they will then prepare the order for delivery or pickup. Typically, dark grocery stores will have a pickup location on-site, or provide a curbside pickup location. If the customer wants their order delivered, the dark store can either provide this themselves or utilize a third-party service like DoorDash, Shipt or Instacart. 

What are the Benefits of Dark Grocery Stores?

Dark stores come with several key benefits, including:

  • Easy Order Fulfillment—Since this is solely what dark stores focus on, the process of picking and packing orders in a grocery store setting is much easier for staff. With no customers in-store, there’s very few distractions and obstacles to contend with.

  • Better In-Stock Options—Dark stores allow for better inventory control and insights. With no customers shopping for the same items your employees are picking, there’s less frustration when an item is out of stock. There’s also an opportunity to keep a better eye on what products are selling fast and need restocks. This can give your business a bump in sales and popularity.

  • Potentially Larger Clientele Pool—By offering a delivery option, you have the opportunity to widen your pool of potential customers. Since grocery store online sales have been steadily growing the last few years, more customers are prioritizing this option when grocery shopping. Catering to this market can open your doors to more customers who’ll favor your store over others.

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