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Virtually Delicious: Setting the Table for Digital-First Dining

Modern Restaurant Management - by Buck Sleeper

Temporary pop-ups have long been a way to test a new concept without building out a full location. Creating an entire restaurant, after all, is a massive undertaking, even when not in the middle of an industry-wrecking pandemic. But, along the boulevard of online ordering, new locations are built with a handful of pixels, not a truckload of bricks.

Welcome to the age of virtual restaurants.

The premise for a virtual restaurant is simple. First, identify a gap in the market—often using a delivery system’s regional data to see which cravings went unsatisfied. Next, create a brand and menu to be hosted locally or on your favorite aggregator. Finally, find a place to cook and start filling orders, often alongside tickets from a traditional front-of-house. For Top Round Roast Beef in San Francisco, that meant running a fried-chicken joint, burger house, and ice-cream parlor all from within their existing sandwich shop. Others, like LA-based group Salted, are built from the ground up with only “delivery-first” brands.

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