Cooking delivery-only brands

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Delivery-only brands – cooked in a different brand’s kitchen and often supplied by third parties like Uber Eats – were proliferating even before the pandemic. They are an inexpensive way for restaurants to try a new concept or meet a need in the community. For example, a burger joint might try to make tacos under a different name.

Over the past year, delivery-only brands saw explosive growth as the pandemic made delivery a more popular option. Large restaurant chains are now joining the battle, hoping to attract new customers as traffic in their dining rooms decreases.

Applebee’s introduces Cosmic Wings, a delivery brand that specializes in chicken wings and Cheetos-flavored dipping sauce. Uber Eats will supply the brand from 1,300 Applebee kitchens.

It joins a crowded market. Denny’s is launching two virtual brands in the first half of this year – The Burger Den and The Meltdown. Chuck E. Cheese started shipping Pasqually’s Pizza and Wings last March. In the past few months, Chili debuted It’s Just Wings, TGI Fridays cooked Conviction Chicken and Carrabbas Italian Grill started delivering Tender Shack Chicken sandwiches.

Celebrities are even getting into the trend. Tyga Bites, a chicken nugget brand from rapper Tyga, and Mariah’s Cookies, supported by singer Mariah Carey, are among the brands of Virtual Dining Concepts, a new company establishing delivery-only brands in restaurant kitchens.

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Uber Eats claims it has more than 10,000 delivery-only restaurants on its platform, up from 3,000 in 2019. More than half of that growth can be attributed to national chains, the company said. Grubhub and DoorDash won’t say how many delivery-only brands are on their platforms.

Scott Gladstone, vice president of strategy and development at Applebee, said making Cosmic Wings its own brand will enable Applebee’s target customers who may not reach it with its regular menu, where wings are one of nearly a dozen entrees.

“This gives him the best chance of himself standing out,” said Gladstone.

The NPD Group, which tracks U.S. restaurant sales, says delivery now represents 11% of restaurant sales, 86% since the pandemic started.

In some cases, pure delivery brands have become large companies in their own right. Brinker International, which owns Chili’s, said It’s Just Wings is on track to generate $ 150 million in annual sales.

Rick Camac, dean of restaurant and hotel management at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, believes the demand for supplies will only increase. More restaurants are now offering it, packaging has got better, and delivery companies are getting faster, he said.

“Our habits have changed and I don’t think they’ll return very easily or quickly,” he said.

There were some setbacks on social media when customers found out that the place they thought was a new local restaurant was actually a large chain, but some customers don’t mind.

Mikelya Fournier, a small business owner in Leesburg, Georgia, was excited to see a new restaurant – It’s Just Wings – on DoorDash one evening. She rummaged around and discovered that it was made from chili. But she likes the food and is happy about another delivery option.

“Food deserts are widespread in my area, so it’s amazing that a larger chain is coming in and meeting a need,” said Fournier.

“I don’t care who owns it,” she said.

Josh Phillips, the co-owner of Espita, a stylish Mexican restaurant, is holding a ghost burger at his restaurant in downtown Washington on Monday, February 15, 2021. Phillips opened a delivery-only brand called Ghostburger in August to keep Espita’s kitchen running that winter. He chose Burger because he wanted to reach new customers at a lower price than Espita. It was so successful that Phillips is now looking for locations for stand-alone ghost burger restaurants. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)

Josh Phillips, the co-owner of Espita, a stylish Mexican restaurant, is showing off a ghost burger at his restaurant in downtown Washington on Monday, February 15, 2021. Phillips opened a delivery-only brand called Ghostburger in August to keep Espita’s kitchen running that winter. He chose Burger because he wanted to reach new customers at a lower price than Espita. It was so successful that Phillips is now looking for locations for stand-alone ghost burger restaurants. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)

Josh Phillips, the co-owner of Espita, a stylish Mexican restaurant, is showing off a ghost burger at his restaurant in downtown Washington on Monday, February 15, 2021.  Phillips opened a delivery-only brand called Ghostburger in August to keep Espita's kitchen running that winter.  He chose Burger because he wanted to reach new customers at a lower price than Espita.  It was so successful that Phillips is now looking for locations for stand-alone ghost burger restaurants.  (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)

Josh Phillips, the co-owner of Espita, a stylish Mexican restaurant, is showing off a ghost burger at his restaurant in downtown Washington on Monday, February 15, 2021. Phillips opened a delivery-only brand called Ghostburger in August to keep Espita’s kitchen running that winter. He chose Burger because he wanted to reach new customers at a lower price than Espita. It was so successful that Phillips is now looking for locations for stand-alone ghost burger restaurants. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)