Emerging Brands

Robert Earl is creating a virtual restaurant with Mario Lopez

The "Saved by the Bell" actor is lending his name to a tortas concept, and DJ Pauly D is partnering for an Italian subs venture.

Robert Earl’s Virtual Dining Concepts is launching two more celebrity-affiliated virtual brands: Mario’s Tortas Lopez, a tie-in with gossip-show host and "Saved by the Bell" actor Mario Lopez, and Pauly D’s Italian Subs, a venture connected with “Jersey Shore” star Paul D. DelVecchio, a.k.a. DJ Pauly D.

Both ventures are being marketed as packaged secondary brands that independent and chain restaurants can market via GrubHub as additional delivery options. An existing restaurant is provided with a menu, recipes, product specs and marketing support for producing items not on their current menu. The virtual brand is listed in GrubHub’s app as a freestanding option, even though it has no actual brick-and-mortar presence and its fare is produced in the kitchens of another actual restaurant.

Because a virtual concept usually carries a product-focused name, they tend to come up higher when consumers search on GrubHub’s app or website for a particular item they’d like to have delivered, such as tortas—or Mexican sandwiches—and subs. 

Restaurants pay no fee for using the brands. Earl and his partners take their cut from the commission operators pay to GrubHub.

The brands expand Virtual Dining’s portfolio beyond Tyga Bites, the chicken-centric venture launched earlier this year with rap star Tyga, and Wing Zone, a chicken-wing virtual operation that Earl, the founder of Planet Hollywood and Earl of Sandwich, unveiled in February.

“The power of celebrity Virtual Dining Concepts provides is an added value for restaurateurs across the country,” Earl said in a statement. “Similar to Tyga, Mario Lopez and DJ Pauly D come in as partners, playing an active role in marketing and promoting their brands to their millions of followers, driving revenue to the restaurants.”

Virtual Dining is a sister operation to Earl’s extensive brick-and-mortar restaurant holdings, Earl Enterprises, which owns and operates Planet Hollywood, Buca di Beppo, Brio Italian Mediterranean, Bravo Fresh Italian, Earl of Sandwich and Bertucci’s.

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