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Cosmic Wings is Dine Brands Global's new virtual concept.

Dine Brands Global launches virtual restaurant Cosmic Wings, operating out of Applebee’s kitchens

The chicken concept is partnering with Cheetos to debut with distinctive menu items

Dine Brands Global Inc. is the latest casual-dining chain to roll out a virtual chicken concept with the launch Wednesday of Cosmic Wings.

The delivery-only brand features fried chicken wings and boneless wings, which are battered and fried chicken breast pieces, as well as chicken tenders, waffle fries, onion rings and cheese bites. The items will be prepared out of nearly 1,300 Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar kitchens and will be available exclusively via third-party delivery company Uber Eats, according to Dine Brands.

To add a bit of distinctiveness to the concept, Dine Brands is teaming up with Frito-Lay North America to offer menu items coated in a choice of regular or Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Regular and spicy Cheetos sauces are also available, along with other sauces including honey barbecue, blue cheese and ranch.

While prices will vary by location, the average price of 10 Cheetos boneless wings is $10.99-$12.99, a spokeswoman said.

To promote the new concept orders, of $15 or more will have no delivery charge through the rest of February.

The culinary lead for the project is Stephen Bulgarelli, who is also Applebee’s chief culinary officer.

Scott Gladstone, Applebee’s vice president of strategy and development, is also Cosmic Wings’ vice president of strategy.

“With people across the country hungry for new delivery options, we’re excited to launch Cosmic Wings and give guests a unique and delicious experience that they can’t get anywhere else,” Gladstone said in a release announcing the new concept.

Chicken wings have been a success story during the pandemic as they have been a favorite delivery item. Wing delivery specialist Wingstop reported a 71% rise in income for the 3rd quarter of 2020.

Dine Brands isn’t the first casual dining concept to launch a virtual wing brand. Chili’s Grill & Bar parent Brinker International rolled out its It’s Just Wings brand to more than 1,000 restaurants nationwide last June.

Along similar lines, Outback Steakhouse parent Bloomin’ Brands is offering chicken tenders through a virtual brand, Tender Shack, Famous Dave’s is experimenting with virtual chicken tender concept Hayward’s Hen House and Logan’s Roadhouse parent SPB Hospitality has launched Twisted Tenders.

This is also not the first time that Cheetos has teamed up with restaurant to develop new items. In 2016 Taco Bell introduced The Cheetos Burrito as a limited time offer, and in 2019 KFC, had a Cheetos Sandwich as an LTO. It was a fried chicken sandwich breaded with Cheetos dust, with Cheetos snacks, mayonnaise and a sauce developed by Cheetos on a bun.  

Taco Bell and KFC are both owned by Yum! Brands, which used to be part of PepsiCo and therefore were sister brands with Frito-Lay.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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