With consumers returning to restaurants for on-site dining at record rates, restaurants that launched virtual brands during the pandemic are at a crossroads. They could remain exclusively offsite restaurants, building on the continued popularity of digital ordering for pickup and delivery, or they could leverage the brand recognition they have gained so far to establish physical locations.
Dallas-based barbecue restaurant chain Dickey’s barbecue pit, which operates approximately 460 physical locations across the United States, is taking the latter route with its Squadron leader virtual brand. The brand currently has around 80 locations online only. Now, Dickey’s and Wing Boss announced on Tuesday (July 13) that the hickory-smoked chicken wing restaurant is opening its first physical location. The restaurant, located in the town of Addison just north of Dallas, will open in early September. It will include a full bar, dining area, and TV screens for guests to watch sporting events while they eat.
“Dallas has been the home of Dickey for 80 years, so it’s the perfect place to start building this thriving brand,” Laura Rea DickeyDickey’s CEO said in a statement. “Dickey’s has a long history of delivering Legit. Texas. Barbecue ™, and taking our heritage and applying it to smoked chicken wings, we’ve seen impressive results with guests across the country.
The company first announced the opening of Wing Boss at the end of March 2021, when 40 sites were already operational. The brand was joined in early June by the second virtual brand of Dickey’s Barbecue, Big Deal Burger, which serves burgers, sandwiches and side dishes at nearly 50 locations across the United States.
The decision to establish a physical presence for Wing Boss comes as many brands rethink the strategies that led them through the most difficult months of the pandemic, adjusting consumers’ post-quarantine routines. Many restaurants have rethought the role of ghost cooking, seeing it as a tool for testing new concepts and locations. Dickey’s is perhaps doing the first, using its virtual concepts as a way to try out menus with a view to establishing new physical restaurant brands in the future.
This could be a winning strategy for the future. As Joey simons, senior vice president of operations for culinary brand C3, which has created physical spaces for its digital native brands, told PYMNTS in April: “Consumers feel more connected to brands than they can see, touch and that they can connect with in person. These are the brands that will survive on and off delivery apps when the pendulum swings back to in-person dining experiences. “
According to the US Census Bureau The data, sales of food services and drinking places in May (the most recent month on record) reached $ 67.3 billion, with the figure increasing every month since February, suggesting the vaccine is bringing consumers back to restaurants . Where digital control was the core of restaurant operations during the pandemic, it is now just one of many relevant channels. To capitalize on the boom of quarantine virtual brands in the omnichannel lives of consumers, restaurants will have to do what Dickey’s is doing: think about the role these brands play in the new normal, so to speak.