Thursday, August 26, 2021

Fresh Fast Famous Virtual Restaurants Leave Legacy Chains Restaurant Languishing


At the intersection of food trends, consumer eating patterns, and technology Gen Z and Millennial consumers have disrupted traditional avenues of fresh food distribution because they were two slow to evolve according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

There was a time that independent local restaurants embody the American ethos of menu creativity, distinctive flavor profile, and were the fastest to respond to a change of operating circumstances. Chain restaurants would watch what worked for independent restaurants, see what consumers (liked) were buying elsewhere then copy it, advertise, and regain market share. They the chains would spend big dollars promoting “copycat’ menu items to drive sales. Those days seem to be gone according to Johnson.

Consumers in search of food discovery have changed all that. Restaurant chains once nimble focused and quick to respond, have been “simply watching from the sideline” according to Johnson as virtual restaurants garner the attention of consumers.  It would appear that many legacy chain restaurants are waiting for the days of old to return. The facts seem to show that they simply can’t keep pace with all of the new entrants disrupting the landscape of food consumption.  Many chain restaurants reeling from the pandemic, don’t want to move forward they appear to want the old days to return.  Good luck with that.  They wonder what or who’s coming after us next?  Let’s take a look.

In a Battle for Share of Stomach

Are you a 'Player'

Well, here is one person that is; content creator, musician, and YouTube sensation Larray recently announced the launch of his very-own virtual restaurant brand called Larray’s Loaded Mac. 

So, as one of the fastest-growing, multi-hyphenate creators worldwide, Larray’s music, style, and vibrant personality have captured audiences globally and resulted in a loyal following of fans and nearly 40M followers across YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. Now, Larray is adding restaurateur to his digital profile as he debuts Larray’s Loaded Mac in partnership with Virtual Dining Concepts (VDC).

Robbie Earl, VDC co-founder, “We are focused on working with digital-first talent by helping them create an ownable virtual dining brand,” … “By tapping into the creator economy, we’re not only playing a part in growing the influencers’ personal brands but also further helping the restaurant industry leverage the digitally native community.

Having Larray join the virtual food space provides him with another way to engage his fans, this time with food deliveries in 30 minutes or less, and have them be a part of something that means so much to him.”  Johnson asks, can your restaurant or food outlet deliver your grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared meals or meal components in 30 minutes?

New networks of “virtual chains” are emerging, for example, as explained in the New York Times, when a customer ordered from the MrBeast Burger in Midvale, Utah, the food was prepared at a Buca di Beppo location following a standardized MrBeast recipe.  

Virtual Restaurants, virtual kitchen, or ghost kitchens now reflect the American ethos of menu creativity, distinctive flavor profile, and are fastest to respond to a change of operating circumstances more important they have become food marketing powerhouses driving customer adoption. Johnson, went on to say they are doing that while simultaneously building a brand and evolving a menu.

Driving down the cost to start a brand or open a restaurant, essentially, virtual restaurants have no physical storefront. Cooks prepare food for delivery or take-out, and no dine-in options are available to customers. Virtual restaurants typically leverage websites, social media, and various third-party apps to reach their customers and offer alternative means for restaurants to continue operations and generate much-needed revenue.

Food marketing trumps a physical location aka a store front as digital technology via a mobile smart phone is in the hand, the pocket, or on the ear of 85.7% of the U.S. consumers. Virtual restaurant branding is driving by creative food marketers use of descriptive names.  So while, Millennials and Gen Z are seeking fresh food fast. Marketing and technology matters because limited screen space and time to engage with potential customers, a brand name that not only identifies the ghost kitchen but also highlights the available fare could be the difference between a sale and a customer’s continued scrolling.

The question today has become not who is our competition, but rather how fast will competitors be coming after us.  Then what are you going to do about it when they come? If success leaves clues and it does it clear that the grocerant niche filled with fresh prepared food that is either Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat is set to ramp up once again. 

Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing ideations look more like yesterday than tomorrow? Interested in learning how our Grocerant Guru® can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at: or visit: us on our social media sites by clicking one of the following links: Facebook,  LinkedIn, or Twitter

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