4 Major Brands Embrace Virtual Kitchens This Week

Find out why some of the country's largest chains are embracing virtual concepts. (A man in a restaurant wears gloves and a mask to pack food order for delivery )

Ghost kitchens and virtual concepts remain one of the hottest topics in industry news this week. Last week, headlines were filled with reports about Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Kitchen and MrBeast’s MrBeast Burger – two of the highest profile virtual kitchen launches to date. This week, major corporations are dominating the conversation, as some of the biggest restaurant brands announce new virtual kitchen concepts.

If you didn’t read our introductory guide to ghost kitchens, here’s a quick overview: ghost kitchens are professional cooking facilities that specialize in delivery-only meals. They act as food factories, pumping out hundreds of meals a day, and relying on third-party apps like GrubHub and UberEats to fulfill their orders. Virtual brands operate within a ghost kitchen. These are digital-only concepts that operate without a brick-and-mortar restaurant, and have been created to capitalize on the growing demand for delivery.

Off-premise dining facilities have grown 60 times in just 12 months. They’re one of the fastest growing industries, and are estimated to become a $1 trillion opportunity over the next decade. Read on to find out how four major companies are using ghost kitchens and virtual brands to bring in revenue during Covid-19.

White Castle Closes Virtual Kitchen Due to Overwhelming Demand

It turns out, a crave really is a powerful thing. White Castle proved their own slogan this week, when they had to close their newest virtual kitchen after just two hours. The Orlando, Florida virtual kitchen launched on Tuesday, to devastating amounts of customer support. So many people were requesting orders, White Castle had to temporarily shut down the operation. The location is expected to open again tomorrow, with more staff and supplies to handle the demand. The new virtual kitchen is a teaser for their upcoming brick and mortar location, which is expected to open in spring. The new space will be over 4,500 square feet, making it the brand’s biggest location.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Ghost Kitchens

Cracker Barrel Ventures into Ghost Kitchens

America’s ‘country store’ is coming into the modern world, as Cracker Barrel experiments with their first virtual brand. The move was first announced in September, after they reported an almost 40% decrease in same-store sales. The company has repurposed a former location in Indianapolis as a ghost kitchen, and they’re using it to trial a chicken and biscuits concept. Cracker Barrel is the latest fast-casual offering to trial a virtual brand, following behind others like Outback Steakhouse, Denny’s, Chili’s and Applebee’s.

Applebee’s Launches its Second Virtual Restaurant

Applebee’s launched a delivery-only brand called Cosmic Wings last week, boasting Instagram-ready Cheetos®-inspired items, like Cheetos®-crusted wings and hot sauces. The new concept replaces their first virtual brand, Neighborhood Wings, and will be operating out of more than 1,300 existing Applebee’s kitchens across America. Neighborhood Wings reportedly wasn’t niche enough, and this new hyper-focused menu seems to bring more value. The virtual brand is only available through the Uber Eats app.

Read more: Trend Report: What to Expect from F&B in 2021

Bloomin’ Brands Goes Virtual

Bloomin’ Brands – the parent company of Outback Steakhouse – announced a major expansion for their own virtual concept, Tender Shack, last week. The company is repurposing more than 700 restaurants around the country into ghost kitchens to supply the nation’s need for Tender Shack. The chicken-based brand was first launched last September, and their success bodes well for Cosmic Wings. Bloomin’ Brands expects the brand to take in roughly $75 million of sales this year.

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