Three new virtual food halls announced opening dates this month signaling a new trend in the ever-growing virtual restaurant space: the ability to order from several different concepts in one digital delivery order.
Many dine-in food halls have reopened, and some say they are better suited for a pandemic because of their large capacity, allowing for social distancing. But these new food halls are designed to take full advantage of the demand for delivery.
These new all-virtual food halls are forgoing the “experience” of a food hall entirely and giving consumers the ability to shop multiple restaurants on their phones or other devices to buy food for one delivery order.
It’s basically the ability to sample different restaurants all at once without having to change out of pajamas.
SBE Entertainment Group’s C3, for example, which stands for Creating Culinary Communities, is planning a new food hall concept, though details have yet to be revealed.
The Commons from Fine-Draw Hospitality in Philly is opening its own virtual food hall in Philadelphia’s University City, taking over a 7,000-square-foot warehouse and offering a rotating selection of virtual brands to the myriad college students living in that area.
Ghost kitchen provider Zuul announced its own virtual food hall using the tenants of one New York City Zuul location that delivers meals to office buildings in bulk, a move to appeal to office workers returning from months of working at home.
“We're excited to offer this new sales channel to our member restaurants while supporting a safe return to work for many New Yorkers," said Corey Manicone, CEO of Zuul.
For individual virtual restaurants, brand awareness has proven to be a big hurdle. But one growing company has found a solution:
Pizza Anonymous was founded by two former marketing executives, Alexandra Lourdes and Lin Jerome, who build brand loyalty using Instagram and other social media profiles months before they open to drum up interest.
“You have bills to pay, you don’t have two to three months to get your name out there once you’re renting a space, you’re already going to be in the weeds and behind,” said Jerome. “[When you start early with social media] you have people coming to your door (or website) to order the second you open.”
Another trend we may be seeing more of is restaurant chains bringing popular items from virtual brands into brick-and-mortar locations.
Fazoli’s virtual brand, Wingville, for example, has become so popular that the wings on the menu will be introduced at all brick-and-mortar locations of the chain.
Many larger brands like Smokey Bones and Outback Steakhouse-parent Bloomin’ Brands Inc., have also been using virtual brands to increase delivery sales, but also to test new menu items that aren’t available in restaurants or via the chain’s own delivery.
See the new virtual brands we’re dying to get delivered.
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