Virtual restaurant brand company Nextbite announced the company’s first ever international brand partnership with Shawarmama — making the Dubai-based shawarma brand newly available for delivery through restaurant partners in major cities across the U.S.
“This brand is so popular across the Middle East and just starting to expand internationally into other territories,” Alex Canter, CEO of Nextbite told Nation’s Restaurant News. “They do great volume bringing authentic shawarma flavors, spices, and style into the delivery experience. There’s a demand gap in the U.S. for shawarma […] so we see a really exciting opportunity to bring this beloved brand to the U.S. through the back of any kitchen that wants to take it on.”
Shawarmama currently has brick and mortar locations in Dubai, Jordan, Kuwait, and Canada. The brand’s simple menu is comprised of shawarma pita wraps, hummus, and bowls, along with cuisine mashups with other ethnicities, like shawarma quesadillas and burritos, and a chicken shawarma sandwich on a French baguette.
“I actually was in the Middle East at the end of last year […] scoping out interesting brands in the region, and Shawarmama was the one we were really excited by,” Canter said. “We loved the unboxing experience and tasted authenticity from the first bite […] The group behind Shawarmama had been wanting to bring the brand to the U.S. for a while, but didn’t know how because they didn’t want to invest a lot of money in brick and mortar.”
Canter said that he thinks the brand will resonate particularly well with college campus markets as a late-night dining option but also works as a family dining option.
The Shawarmama partnership is not the only recent Nextbite announcement: The virtual restaurant company has also announced partnerships with Nathan’s Famous to bring the brand’s iconic hot dogs and crinkle-cut fries to new markets, a new plant-based chicken brand TenderFix in partnership with “Stranger Things” actor Noah Schnapp, and Killer Brownie, which bolsters their growing dessert category.
The Nathan’s collaboration is part of Nextbite’s strategy of filling delivery whitespace with legacy brands that already have a strong reputation.
“I think we're learning that there are many familiar CPG brands or 100-year-old restaurants that already have a lot of familiarity and consumer love that we can […] spread virtually through the back of other people's kitchens,” Canter said. “[With Nathan’s], instead of starting from scratch with zero Instagram followers, we get to take a century-old brand legacy and bring it to areas where it was previously not available.”
Each of these new brand partnerships — all announced over the last couple of months — serve a different purpose and demographic. Besides Nathan’s as a legacy brand, and Shwarmama fulfilling the role of the international upstart brand, TenderFix is a marketing and social media win with a dual celebrity and brand partnership with Noah Schnapp and Morningstar Farms’ plant-based Chik’n Tenders. The brand, which launched in March, is not the first time Schnapp has partnered with a delivery company-- last summer, the young actor’s vegan hazelnut spread, TBH, was part of Gopuff’s in-house milkshakes menu.
The final brand announcement, Killer Brownie, is Nextbite’s second major foray into the dessert space following the company’s collaboration with Nestle Toll House to offer freshly-baked cookies as a ghost kitchen add-on for restaurants looking to boost revenues. A similar strategy will be taken with CPG brand Killer Brownie where the company’s original pecan brownie and other portfolio of flavors — from cookie dough to salted caramel — is now available for delivery through participating restaurants.
“There’s clearly demand for hot cookie delivery, and there are a couple of great chains out there that are doing it, but they're not everywhere,” Canter said. “[…] Similarly, when we launched TenderFix, we were blown away by the number of TikTok videos and tweets of consumers super excited that we added a plant-based chicken option in their territory that was never available before.”
After this surge of announcements over the past couple of months, Nextbite is not finished. Now that they’re able to test brands out on the market faster than ever, we’ll likely hear more from the virtual restaurant platform in the future.
Contact Joanna at [email protected]