ONE RESTAURANT, EIGHT BRANDS
Entrepreneur|Startups Summer 2021
To boost sales during the pandemic, the founders of Dog Haus flooded the delivery apps with virtual restaurants that operate out of existing franchise kitchens. They’ve been so valuable that they’re now here to stay.
CLINT CARTER

When Dog Haus launched in 2010, its concept made a lot of sense…for the year 2010. Its mission was to elevate stadium food into a culinary masterwork, and it did so by selling dogs and sausages decorated with ingredients such as bacon, pastrami, caramelized onions, and arugula. The three founders, Hagop Giragossian, Quasim Riaz, and André Vener, dubbed their concept “craft casual,” and they built fun, large, airy venues to serve customers. Dog Haus has grown to 48 locations since franchising.

But in the decade since much has changed with how Americans eat. People increasingly order food through Grubhub or Uber Eats. Dog Haus responded by expanding its reach through ghost kitchens—delivery-only facilities with no seating, parking, or signs. Then, when the pandemic hit, foot traffic dropped even more—and the ghost kitchens presented an intriguing opportunity. If Dog Haus could sell food without a dine-in location, why did its founders have to stick to just selling Dog Haus–branded food? Couldn’t they sell, well, anything?

Last March, the three Dog Haus founders put that question to the test by announcing an ambitious roster of brands: It’s called The Absolute Brands, and it consists of seven new QSR concepts (five are open and two more are in the works) that have no physical stores and operate out of virtual kitchens and existing Dog Haus locations. (After all, Dog Haus kitchens suddenly had excess capacity.) If a customer orders from any of these brands—such as Huevos Dias, Bad-Ass Breakfast Burritos, or the plant-based concept Plant B—they most likely won’t even know the food is made in a Dog Haus kitchen (unless they happen to go and pick it up).

The three founders recently sat down with Entrepreneur to explain how Absolute Brands works.

It sounds exhausting to launch multiple restaurants during a pandemic. How were you able to do it so quickly?

GIRAGOSSIAN: We began testing The Absolute Brands last January, before COVID. At first, we thought we’d just run them from the ghost kitchens, but when the pandemic happened, we thought they could be a lifeline for franchisees. The brands weren’t fully ready to launch at the time, but we thought that if the franchisees were down, we could figure it out as we go. And they jumped at the opportunity.

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