Operations

Why Smokey Bones revamped its virtual burger brand

It's hoping the new-look Burger Experience will stand out with simpler builds and a lower price point.
Burger Experience bacon Swiss burger
Photograph courtesy of Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill

Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill has relaunched its virtual burger brand with a new menu and lower price point designed specifically for the off-premise customer.

The Burger Experience's five new burgers are smaller and simpler than their predecessors, allowing for faster execution and a better final product for delivery. And at $6 a pop, they're significantly less expensive than they were before. 

The virtual, delivery-only brand launched in 2019 and offered burgers similar to the ones Smokey Bones serves in its restaurants for $12-$15.

“We were essentially offering casual-dining burgers at casual-dining prices to the off-premise guests,” O'Reilly said. But the company observed that the delivery space was crowded with casual-dining and fast-food burgers and began working to reposition the Burger Experience somewhere in the middle while also optimizing it for delivery.

"We decided to change the strategy to offer a delivery burger starting at $6 with some chef-driven aspects," O'Reilly said, including a new "secret chef sauce," dubbed XTC, which has an umami flavor profile with notes of mustard, soy and hoisin sauce. 

The burgers are also made with a smaller, quarter-pound patty and less fresh produce for better travel. And they're wrapped in foil to ensure a "warm, ooey-gooey" final product, O'Reilly said. 

Though the burgers are different than those served by the parent brand, they don't require many new ingredients. Smokey Bones already uses the quarter-pound patties for its kids burgers, for instance. That makes the new menu easier to prepare.

"It’s mostly existing SKUs with existing equipment and less complexity for our restaurant teams rather than more," he said.

The new menu is part of an overall rebrand that includes a new logo and marketing along with a dedicated website and ordering platform. Before, the Burger Experience was available only on third-party delivery apps. Smokey Bones is working with DoorDash to provide last-mile delivery for those native orders.

It's now being offered out of 61 Smokey Bones locations in 16 states, along with a virtual chicken wing brand called The Wing Experience. Less than a month into the refresh, O'Reilly is happy with how the burger concept is performing.

"It’s early, but it’s exceeding our expectations in the first three weeks," he said.

The new burgers are the Classic, Classic with Cheese, Bacon Cheeseburger, Mushroom Swiss Burger and Green Chile Burger, all served on a grilled brioche bun. Customers also have the option to create their own burgers. The menu also offers crinkle-cut fries and drinks.

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