gorillas coffee

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Rapid grocer Gorillas has opened a coffee shop within one of its London dark stores.

The coffee shop in Hampstead will also offer space for customers to click and collect orders made on the app, rather than having it couriered to them.

The coffee shop will be operated by social enterprise Change Please and staffed by homeless people who are paid the London living wage and provided full barista training. All of the profits from the shop’s sales are donated straight back to the charity.

Repurposing an unused area of the dark store “maximises the retail space” Gorillas said.

“It’s another example of Gorillas’ commitment to adding value to local high streets, repurposing shuttered stores around the capital, while also exploring partnerships which benefit local communities,” a company spokeswoman told The Grocer.

While the sit-in coffee shop concept is a new one in UK quick commerce, it is not the first time a rapid grocery company has welcomed consumers into its dark stores.

Earlier this year, Getir began a customer click & collect trial from several of its dark stores.

“Sometimes customers are really close to a Getir store, and going next door to pick something up might take the same time as ordering something and having a courier deliver it to you,” Getir Europe region general manager Turancan Salur told The Grocer at the time. “It’s something we’re interested in testing.”

Gopuff operates a handful of stores in the US that allow customers to order from a digital kiosk on site, and have their order immediately put together behind the scenes. The locations also function as dark stores for app-based orders.

In May, grocery delivery service Nippy secured funding to open three new dark stores, which will double as walk-in shops where customers can browse shelves.

Experts have questioned the benefit of opening up dark stores to walk-in customers.

“I find the idea to be quite laughable,” said Quaid Combstock, Jiffy’s former head of delivery operations and now a q-commerce consultant. “If dark stores allow customers to enter, they’re no longer a dark store. The entire point of a dark store or kitchen is that it is not open to customers. Once you allow customers in, you just revert back to being a traditional retail store with a delivery component – which is far from new,” he added.

As Viv Craske, an online grocery consultant, put it: “Opening dark stores to the public is a desperate move. And there is just no consumer need.”