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Virtual Restaurants Make Real Gains


Virtual restaurants are already grabbing headlines this year, much as the meal kit boom did last year. A recent Fast Company article explains that “when [customers] order from certain restaurants like Leafage and Butcher Block, they might not realize that those restaurants aren't restaurants at all. They are virtual eateries created by a company called the Green Summit Group that operates several food-delivery services out of central commissaries in midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Chicago.”

A growing wave of so-called “ghost restaurants,” such as Munchery and Good Uncle, are benefiting from low overhead and streamlined delivery systems that rely on outsourced ordering systems. It’s a business plan that combines the specialization of food trucks with the sleek delivery system of Domino’s.

What does this all mean to the grocerant world? In the narrow view, delivery-only concepts could be seen as more competition for share of stomach. On a larger scale, these are concepts that grocerants could duplicate, especially if space limitations restrict in-store dining options. Treating a retail kitchen as a commissary means maximizing kitchen usage, outsourcing the ordering and delivery functions, and creating a new revenue stream, while keeping up with the latest foodservice trends.

Virtual restaurant operators also have more flexibility to take a chance on more ambitious or trendy concepts: They can easily move on when a chicken wing concept doesn’t fly or if a poke menu doesn’t make a big splash.

Grocerant-Ready Ideas:

  • Starting small, such as delivery to just a local campus or office park
  • Curating a limited menu of delivery-friendly foods, like bowls, salads and sandwiches
  • Cross-purposed equipment and ingredients to maximize existing strengths
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