Dallas, Texas-based Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is the latest restaurant chain to join the growing ghost-kitchen movement. The 457-unit, fast-casual barbecue chain announced that it will be launching a network of ghost kitchens, including virtual restaurants to expand their reach in Chicago, Houston and Orlando, and entering into a new market using only ghost kitchens in Providence, R.I.
Currently, there are five ghost kitchens opening in this stage of the launch, although Dickey’s confirmed that there are “90 other agreements for this model down the pipeline,” and the company is specifically looking at expanding its reach overseas.
The launch of the ghost-kitchen network is being marketed as a cheaper, quicker alternative for Dickey’s franchisees to expand their store portfolio or for new franchisees to get into the business without investing as much time or money as a traditional brick and mortar store, particularly in the COVID-19 era of uncertainty for the restaurant industry.
“Virtual kitchens are a unique franchising opportunity that gives us a new and innovative way to capitalize on consumer trends at a low cost,” said Laura Dickey, CEO of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in a statement. “Delivery is a rapidly growing channel in our industry right now, and we believe it will continue to be a preference for guests post-pandemic.”
Besides offering a discount for both existing and new operators, Dickey’s is further incentivizing potential ghost kitchen franchisees by pointing out perks like “maximized delivery coverage” without needing to pay rent for or maintain a brick and mortar restaurant, opening s virtual restaurant with only a smoker and warming cabinet needed as equipment, and needing a much smaller staff to operate since the community kitchens will use their own team members to handle food delivery. Dickey’s also said that franchisees could get up and running within a month.
“Our goal is to always serve as many guests as we can and virtual kitchens allow us to reach more folks by giving new or existing franchisees an opportunity to deliver more of our authentic, Texas-style barbecue,” Laura Dickey told Nation’s Restaurant News. “As some dining rooms are closed and under-utilized in the current environment, we see an opportunity to use the investments we’ve already made to our digital technology and ecommerce platforms and apply them to new models.”
Dickey’s system-wide same store sales increased 7.4% positive this July, with more than one-third of sales coming from digital platforms, like online and mobile ordering and third-party delivery. From February to July, the average number of digital checks per store increased 333%.
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