Looking at the virtual kitchen landscape, Perkins saw a lot of white space in the sweet treats category, said Joe Artime, VP of Marketing for the family-dining chain.
So the 290-unit Perkins Restaurant & Bakery launched Bakery By Perkins, a virtual brand specializing in the pies, muffins and other baked goods the chain is known for.
“We leveraged our strong equity in the bakery category and developed a test concept in a subset of our stores,” said Artime. Perkins partnered with DoorDash and Uber Eats for digital ordering and delivery, and the test “exceeded expectations,” he said.
Bakery By Perkins rolled out in 85 corporate stores at the end of August and 30 more are set to open this month. All operate inside existing restaurants, and the concept is primed to come online at franchised locations later this fall.
The virtual kitchens started by offering the most popular menu items from Perkins restaurants—whole pies, pie slices, cookies, muffins and cinnamon rolls. But Artime and his team discovered that Bakery By Perkins was a place where they could innovate in the bakery space.
“We didn’t have many cakes in our restaurants, so we launched four individual cakes sold only by the virtual concept,” said Artime. The Chocolate Overload Cake, Raspberry Lemon Drop, Chocolate Peanut Butter Drop and New York Cheesecake all did so well, they will be introduced on the restaurant menus in November.
“We quickly realized that this could be a conduit to increase innovation,” said Artime.
When Strawberry Cream Cheese Crispers, listed on Perkins’ in-store appetizer menu, rolled out in Bakery By Perkins as a sweet treat choice “it became one of our best sellers,” he said. Milkshakes also outperformed online compared to restaurant orders. “When people order digitally, they have different preferences and we’re capturing a different customer.”
Guests who dine in or carry out at Perkins often buy pies, cinnamon rolls and other goodies to take home, but online check averages are higher than in-store purchases, said Artime. A “substantial number” of customers order a whole pie or box of muffins, and then add on brownies or extra slices of pie. It’s all included in the same delivery fee.
The chain is now figuring out how to leverage Perkins’ breakfast equity into Bakery By Perkins; to combine bakery and breakfast so an order becomes more of a meal. Right now, execution is not complex and the company wants to make things as operationally streamlined as possible. Pancakes and omelets may not be the best way to go.
But breakfast sandwiches can be, said Artime, maximizing Perkins baking expertise to create house-made carriers, like biscuits. Breakfast pastries are another possibility. Currently in test is a crumb cake that fits into this category, along with a lemon bar that expands the dessert line.
“Bakery is a word that can go in many directions,” Artime said. “There’s no shortage of runway for experimentation.”
Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.