Thursday, April 28, 2022

Virtual Restaurants Looking A Customer Ahead


Growing a brand requires vision, focus, strategy and solid tactics daily according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  Entrepreneurs and would be restaurateurs that want to test a brand, a product or a concept are doing so utilizing virtual restaurants, virtual kitchens, as a platform for testing.

Back in the day, our Grocerant Guru® perfected, developed, and tested over time a fresh food focused formula: Build, Measure, Learn, Repeat, that continues to drive success steps today. Simply put, grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food sales success is a four-step process according to Johnson; those four steps are Build, Measure, Learn, and Repeat.

Now have you heard of Burger Dandy?  If not you soon will as Burger Dany was one of three virtual kitchen concepts A. Marshall Hospitality launched during the pandemic and ended up being one of the most successful when it first began selling retro shakes and burgers in January 2021.

So, A. Marshall Hospitality converted pandemic-era virtual restaurant Burger Dandy into a real-life sit-down restaurant.  That’s right after testing the brand, the concept, food and messaging they have gone from virtual to a brick-n-mortar outlet.  You can too!

You may be thinking that all virtual restaurants have grown from a buzzworthy trend into a pandemic-era commonality, not many graduate from virtual concept to brick-n-mortar store. However, A. Marshall Hospitality opened three virtual restaurant’s during the pandemic including retro-themed burger shop, Burger Dandy.

This January, the restaurant group converted Burger Dandy into a casual-dining restaurant you can visit in real life, not just on a delivery app based on customer demand, and they now do 70% dine-in and 30% takeout orders.

Lyle, Richardson, COO of A. Marshall Hospitality, stated, “I see a lot of ghost kitchens, especially ones that celebrities have jumped on,” ... “You know, I see all the celebrities jumping on it. But I don’t see a lot of success stories about turning a ghost kitchen into a brick-n-mortar restaurant. So, we gave it a shot. We took 700 square feet of our existing restaurant, Americana Taphouse, and we designed something special.”

I want you to think about this, Burger Dandy was one of three ghost kitchen concepts A. Marshall Hospitality launched during the pandemic and ended up being one of the most successful when it first began selling retro shakes and burgers in January 2021. At some point, the popularity of the off-premises-only concept began outselling A. Marshall Hospitality’s brick and mortar restaurants.

Richardson continued, “As we progressed, we noticed that more and more of our guests were hanging out in front of the takeout space and getting to know the staff there, so we started to have someone available to speak to when you pick up your food to get that would provide that human contact,”. “[…] At some point, we noticed that Burger Dandy sales per square foot were exceeding the potential sales per square foot we had at our existing locations.”

Team impute matters, when we started figuring out how to convert Burger Dandy into a place where people could come to sit down and have a meal, in many ways, Richardson said, it was easier to figure out than making the virtual concept to begin with. The team went for an “Elvis goes out for burgers in Vegas” vibe with a tropical motif and the color scheme of a 1957 Chevy Bel Air car (seafoam green with red accents).

In order to sell fresh food fast, Richardson and his team kept the menu simple: retro burgers and shakes with a Southern flair, including menu items like a slaw dog instead of a regular hot dog, Kool Aid pickles, and Coca-Cola-marinated onions. The menu also has boozy milkshakes and a fried chicken-topped salad.

“Our marketing team was excited to get our hands on [the space] and take Burger Dandy to that next level,” Richardson stated, “I think that's also part of the success of the concept, because it did have a physical identity to start with and didn’t just have an anonymous online presence.” What are you testing, where and why?

Foodservice Solutions® team is here to help you drive top line sales and bottom-line profits. Are you looking a customer ahead? Does your messaging look more like yesterday that tomorrow?  Visit for more information or contact: Remember success does leave clues and we just may the clue you need to propel your continued success.

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