Celebrities and influencers are launching fast food brands which do not have physical outlets, outsourcing food preparation to dark kitchens or established restaurants. The deal allows established restaurants to improve turnover while the celebrities don’t have to do much more than come up with a name, logo, menu and recipes – and of course some funding.
This delivery-only restaurant concept is an evolution of the drop shipping model where retailers accept orders without keeping stock of the items.
A 22-year-old Youtube megastar, known online as MrBeast, launched a 300 location burger business in one day in collaboration with a company called Virtual Dining Concepts. Founded in December 2020, the MrBeast Burger chain now has 420 locations. The business is delivery-only with a menu that’s accessible through major delivery apps. According to his website, “MrBeast Burger operates out of existing restaurant kitchens, allowing restaurateurs to add a new source of revenue without impacting the operation.”
A team of Pakistani YouTube influencers, Bekaar Films, in partnership with cloud kitchen company, Hotpod, launched Bekaar Burgers, Pakistan’s first influencer fast food brand. The menu includes four main items named after each member of Bekaar Films. Mohamamd Umer, head of Brands Hotpod, said, “Hotpod is determined to work with a very select group of social media influencers, sports celebrities, show business icons, and others to launch their food brands in Pakistan. Bekaar Films partnership is our first influencer food brand project and we have a few others coming soon.”
In July 2020 and in partnership with veteran restaurateur Robert Earl and celebrity chef Eric Greenspan, Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist Tyga launched a chicken nugget virtual restaurant chain called Tyga Bites . It has a simple and easy menu which includes baked chicken bites, regular or sweet potato ‘Tyga Tots’, chocolate chip cookies and beverages. The food is available in about 30 markets throughout the United States.
But not all of these so-called ghost franchises are connected to a well-known personality. Robert Earl said, “I believe that five years from now a very large percentage of the independent restaurant community in this country will have a second brand that is not available to the people dining in their place and has no interrelationship to the building, except that they’re using the kitchen.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has strained many restaurants financially. These virtual restaurants provide a way for them to supplement their income during these challenging times. These virtual brands also provide an easy way for celebrities to expand their brand’s reach and we are likely to see more of this going forward.
Does your restaurant have the capacity to operate as a dark kitchen?
How can this dark kitchen concept be applied to other industries?
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By Faeeza Khan
Image credit: Michael Browning