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Just Eat Takeaway.com is still committed to testing the dark store model despite the struggles witnessed in the wider rapid grocery sector.

“We have to make sure we are getting the model right for the long term of the business,” Just Eat Takeaway’s chief commercial officer Andrew Kenny told The Grocer, “where it can provide a strong customer experience but equally where we can see a future level of sustainable unit economics.”

The food delivery platform first established grocery dark stores in Canada under the Skip Express Lane brand in summer 2021. Last year it launched another pilot, launching Lieferando Express branded dark store operations in Berlin.

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Source: Just Eat Takeaway

Andrew Kenny, chief commercial officer, Just Eat Takeaway.com

These “controlled experiments” would continue to inform the company’s future strategy on rapid grocery through 2023, Kenny said.

Despite the “prudent approach” being taken, Kenny said Just Eat was at an advantage over the pureplay rapid grocers, who in recent months have slashed staff numbers and reduced the number of dark stores they run in a bid to cut costs and reach profitability.

“It’s very tough for many of the pureplay players,” he said. “The reality is if you don’t have an efficient and scaled delivery network, if you don’t have a base of customers already, and you’re not even close to operating at scale, that’s a challenging and expensive equation to solve.

“Our starting point is we have millions of customers on our platform and we have a scaled delivery network,” Kenny added.

The former Just Eat UK MD said dark store grocery services helped the company “smooth out the day” in terms of utilising its network of riders during less busy periods between meal times.

“And of course in the future provides profit opportunities,” he added.

In October, rapid grocer Gopuff partnered with Just Eat owned Grubhub in the US to list its product range on the platform with deliveries from its dark stores made by Gopuff couriers.

In November, Getir partnered with Just Eat in a very similar arrangement across Europe.

“What we’re trying to solve and what pureplay players are trying to solve are quite different,” Kenny said.

Just Eat Takeaway.com continues to secure major partnerships across the grocery space, last month announcing a partnership with Sainsburys. The partnership will expand to more than 175 stores by the end of February, with more than 3,000 products available for purchase by Just Eat app users. Just Eat also works with Central England Co-op, Lincolnshire Co-op, Spar and Booker-owned symbols Budgens, Londis and Premier.

This month saw Just Eat secure a deal with major Spanish supermarket Dia with deliveries starting from around 50 stores in Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, Seville and Bilbao. The partnership will be extended to more Spanish cities in the coming months.