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Nextbite to launch more celebrity-backed virtual brands

It has hired Brian Furano as VP of celebrity and brand licensing to lead the new effort.
Wiz Khalifa with Hotbox by Wiz food
Photograph courtesy of Hotbox by Wiz

Virtual restaurant company Nextbite is looking to add more celebrity-backed concepts to its family of about a dozen brands.

It is launching a new celebrity and brand partnership program and has hired a VP with experience in licensing and artist relations to lead it. Brian Furano is the founder of talent and brand license agency Outer One, where he worked with Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of Kiss on their Rock & Brews concept and with George Lopez on his Chingon Kitchen concepts. 

Nextbite said it's looking to work with celebrities, recording artists, sports teams and celebrity chefs on new brands. It recently added a concept called Lopez Tacos, a collaboration with the aforementioned comedian and actor.

“With strong relationships in the entertainment, music and restaurant industries, Brian is the ideal person to lead our celebrity and brand partnership efforts,” said Alex Canter, CEO of Nextbite, in a statement.

Virtual brands, particularly those tied to celebrities, are one of the top trends to emerge from the pandemic. Concepts such as MrBeast Burger and Nextbite's own HotBox by Wiz have seen strong interest from restaurants, with the famous names providing a built-in audience. Other celebrities that have launched brands include Guy Fieri, Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Lopez.

Restaurants can bring these brands into their kitchens and produce them alongside their regular menus for delivery or pickup only. They're intended to provide extra revenue as well as labor efficiencies.

Canter, who is also the CEO of Nextbite parent Ordermark, told Restaurant Business last week that he thinks a virtual brand could one day become one of the biggest restaurant concepts in the country. 

"We believe that virtual brands are here to stay for the long run," he said. "We actually ... think that the next McDonald's or Chipotle or Sweetgreen will likely be a brand that only exists online." 

In October, Ordermark raised $120 million, in part to help expand its virtual brands. 

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