Marketing

Pasqually’s Pizza is just the latest in a new crop of virtual restaurants

Chuck E. Cheese’s delivery-only offshoot made waves on social media, but it’s far from the first chain to go undercover on third-party apps.
Photo courtesy of Chuck E. Cheese

Chuck E. Cheese’s created a social media stir this week after a Grubhub user discovered that the chain was selling its pizza under a sub-brand on third-party delivery apps: Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings.

While Twitter users made light of the situation, with some proclaiming they felt tricked and others acknowledging the marketing savvy, Chuck E. Cheese’s is not the first chain to offer its product under a different cover on third-party apps.

The practice predates the coronavirus pandemic but has proven to be uniquely suited for the times, as virtually all restaurants have resorted to takeout and delivery only, at least temporarily. In most cases, chains have created the brands to reach customers who are searching delivery apps for specific menu items, such as wings. These so-called virtual restaurants typically consist of items the chains are already producing.  

Here are some other virtual restaurants that have popped up recently.

Hot dog chain Dog Haus added multiple delivery-only concepts based on popular delivery search terms in its markets. Bad Mutha Clucka, for instance, serves chicken sandwiches, while Plant B offers plant-based burgers and sausages. The virtual brands allow Dog Haus to multiply its presence on delivery apps without adding much new inventory. A search of the delivery-only concepts via Grubhub reveals no connection to the parent brand.

Dog Haus also recently teamed up with Wow Bao to offer the Asian chain’s items in Pasadena, Calif. Wow Bao has brick-and-mortar locations in Chicago but is available for delivery in a variety of markets, from Portland, Ore., to Miami.

In February, Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill launched two virtual concepts—Wings Experience and Burger Experience—in 30 locations. Smokey Bones does offer wings and burgers but is known primarily for its barbecue. By creating separate brands for its wings and burgers, it has a better chance of capturing a potential customer who searches for those items on a third-party app.

About a dozen units of the Fatburger fast-casual chain fulfill delivery orders from sister brand Hurricane Grill & Wings. A customer ordering from Hurricane via a delivery app would be unaware their order was being prepared in a Fatburger unit.

Just Salad and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises created delivery-only brands to capitalize on consumers searching delivery apps for specific diets. Just Salad’s Health Tribes offers recipes tailored for keto, vegan, gluten-free and paleo diets, while LEYE’s Whole30 Delivered sells items that are Whole30-approved.

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