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Nextbite sees family feasts as next big delivery opportunity

The virtual brand provider will look to offer more options that satisfy whole households, which tend to be heavy delivery users.
Firebirds meal bundle
Meal bundles like this from Firebirds Wood Fired Grill were popular early in the pandemic. / Photo courtesy of Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

Remember family meal bundles? 

The multi-serving takeout feasts were one of restaurants’ big pivots early in the pandemic, when dining rooms were closed and consumers were staying close to home. 

As those unique conditions faded, so did the buzz around meal bundles. But virtual brand company Nextbite believes there’s still demand for them and is planning to focus on meeting that demand.

“I think that just continues to be a huge opportunity, because it’s replacing what mom would do, which is cook for the family,” said Nextbite Co-President Denny Marie Post.

More evidence to support that theory emerged this past holiday season, when 77% of consumers told the National Restaurant Association that they planned to outsource at least part of their holiday cooking to a restaurant. Cracker Barrel, for one, reported strong demand for its heat-and-serve Thanksgiving offering.

To appeal to that need state, Denver-based Nextbite will look to develop more family-focused offerings, Post said. It currently has more than a dozen delivery-only restaurant brands that operators can license and sell out of existing restaurants.

Families are some of the heaviest delivery users, according to Nextbite survey data. Among a group of 338 consumers who said they order delivery four or more times a week, 44% live with children.

And yet the delivery experience is not always easy for families, Post said. 

“The issue that it creates is for everybody to agree on something,” she said. “Whoever controls the app in the phone—and more often than not, it’s mom—she now is put in that stressful position” of deciding what to order and controlling the process.

That’s one reason pizza is often the default choice, despite the proliferation of other options: It’s popular and it feeds a crowd. 

Post, who last year participated in an ethnographic study of delivery users, said she heard from consumers that they want more pizza-like options for feeding the family: Meals that allow everyone to help themselves, with portions that can be stretched across multiple occasions. (“Leftovers are seen as a huge value driver,” she noted.)

Right now, most restaurant delivery attempts to replicate the dine-in experience with individually packaged entrees. But coordinating that can be stressful for families, and it can end up feeling like a watered-down version of the real thing. There’s no waiter to offer more chips or a free refill, for example. 

“Abundance is something people really feel they’ve given up [with delivery]. It’s almost disappointing—delivered food somehow seems smaller,” Post said. “Bridging that gap is the key to meeting this fast family feast.”

Despite inflation and the fact that consumers are now free to dine out at restaurants, Nextbite has found that delivery usage remains common. In a recent survey of 5,000 people, 54% said they’d ordered delivery in the past three months.

“It’s fulfilling a need for consumers that wasn’t just pandemic-driven,” Post said. “This has redefined convenience in a way that we have not seen since the drive-thru.”

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