Deliveroo's kitchens come under fire

In a skirmish that illustrates the tensions caused by the gig economy, the Deliveroo kitchen "pods" are coming under fire as councils accuse the meal-delivery company of bypassing planning rules and residents complain of excessive noise.
In a skirmish that illustrates the tensions caused by the gig economy, the Deliveroo kitchen "pods" are coming under fire as councils accuse the meal-delivery company of bypassing planning rules and residents complain of excessive noise. PHOTO: AFP

At least one Roobox, which is the meal-delivery company's kitchen "pod", is said to have been set up without planning permission in Britain

LONDON • Deliveroo is facing battles with local councils in Britain over its use of kitchens in carparks and industrial estates in which chefs make takeaway food for hip restaurants such as MEATliquor, Busaba Eathai and Notting Hill's Cocotte.

In a skirmish that illustrates the tensions caused by the gig economy, the Deliveroo kitchen "pods" are coming under fire as councils accuse the meal-delivery company of bypassing planning rules and residents complain of excessive noise.

Named the Roobox, the kitchens are housed in temporary metal buildings the size of a shipping container or temporarily set up in an industrial building.

They have appeared in the London districts of Camberwell, Dulwich, Canary Wharf, Battersea as well as Hove near Brighton as a way to help meet demand for takeaways in areas where popular brands do not have restaurants.

Each pod has room for six or seven chefs from different restaurants, who work alongside one another making food for takeaway.

Rooboxes, also known as Deliveroo Editions, are seen as a key avenue of growth by the company, which is setting up London sites in Whitechapel, Islington, Crouch End, Swiss Cottage, Bermondsey and Wimbledon as well as Reading, Leeds and Birmingham.

By the end of this year, Deliveroo said it will have more than 200 Editions kitchens in 30 sites across Britain and more internationally.

But the Roobox in Camberwell, south London, may be forced to close after the local council said the buzz of delivery vans and mopeds was a nuisance to neighbours and had been set up without planning permission.

Southwark is also investigating the set-up of three Deliveroo pods in a carpark in East Dulwich.

In Hove, Deliveroo is operating out of an existing commercial building where it was permitted to change the use to a kitchen.

But the Brighton & Hove council said it was investigating the site as part of a retrospective planning application for vents and other additions.

The Haringey council said it had not received a planning application from Deliveroo in relation to a site in Hornsey, north London.

Deliveroo has leased the unused industrial space from charity Action For Kids for five years.

Mr Graham Duncan, chief executive of the charity, said Deliveroo had been granted permission to use the spare land behind its head office as a way of earning money to refurbish other buildings for activities for children.

He added that the project was also likely to help create jobs in the area.

He said Deliveroo's lease on land squeezed between an electric power hub and industrial estate was dependent on the company gaining planning permission and the charity had "thought carefully if the site was likely to create a nuisance".

"We are not just after the cash. We have to balance that with the needs of our neighbours," he noted. "Other users were likely to have caused more traffic and inconvenience for us and our neighbours."

A spokesman for Deliveroo said the company has been talking with local residents to put in place measures to deal with any concerns.

"Each Editions kitchen is a high-tech custom-built kitchen that is designed in collaboration with our restaurant partners.

"The layout of each kitchen is designed to meet our partners' operating standards as well as legal and health and safety standards."

GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2017, with the headline 'Deliveroo's kitchens come under fire'. Print Edition | Subscribe