Delivery-only brands — cooked in another brand’s kitchen and often delivered by third parties like Uber Eats — were proliferating even before the pandemic. They’re an inexpensive way for restaurants to try a new concept or fill a need in the community; a burger place might try making tacos under a different name, for example.
But over the last year, delivery-only brands have seen explosive growth as the pandemic made the delivery a more popular option. Big restaurant chains are now joining the fray, hoping to win new customers as traffic in their dining rooms dwindles.
Applebee’s is launching Cosmic Wings, a delivery-only brand that specializes in chicken wings and Cheetos-flavored dipping sauce. Uber Eats will deliver the brand from 1,300 Applebee’s kitchens.
It’s joining a crowded market. Denny’s is rolling out two virtual brands — The Burger Den and The Meltdown — in the first half of this year. Chuck E. Cheese started delivery-only Pasqually’s Pizza and Wings last March. In the last few months, Chili’s launched It’s Just Wings, TGI Fridays cooked up Conviction Chicken and Carrabba’s Italian Grill began delivering Tender Shack chicken sandwiches.
Celebrities are even getting in on the trend. Tyga Bites, a chicken nugget brand from rapper Tyga, and Mariah’s Cookies, backed by singer Mariah Carey, are among the brands offered by Virtual Dining Concepts, a new company that sets up delivery-only brands in restaurant kitchens. Coming soon: Mario’s Tortas Lopez and Pauly D’s Italian Subs.
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