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Digital native restaurant company Salted is showing us what virtual brands can become

Blending ghost-kitchen and brick-and-mortar operations, Salted wants to build the restaurant company of tomorrow, starting with its concept Moonbowls.


The virtual-brand category is still a bit like the Wild West. With a very low barrier to entry, just about any restaurant looking for some incremental revenue can jump into the game.

But as the category threatens to become bloated with too many options and too poor quality, some companies are looking to mature the idea of a virtual brand and leverage it into building the major restaurant concept of the future.

Salted is one such company. The start-up is building so-called “digital native restaurant brands,” which includes its cornerstone concept, the Korean-inspired Moonbowls. With 27 locations across the U.S., Salted is pulling a page out of the playbook of direct-to-consumer brands like Warby Parker, blending ghost-kitchen operations and brick-and-mortar locations to create a digital-first relationship with guests.   

CEO Jeff Appelbaum joined the latest episode of Take-Away with Sam Oches to explain what it means to be a digital native restaurant company, how it differs from being a virtual brand, and how the company is inspired by everyone from Chipotle to Warby Parker as it builds the restaurant company of the future.

In this conversation, you’ll find out why:

  • The major brands of tomorrow have yet to be built
  • If you want to build the brand of tomorrow, start by optimizing it for off premises
  • You don’t need four walls to build a meaningful relationship with customers
  • A digital native brand isn’t so different from what Domino’s has been doing for decades
  • Differentiating your digital brand in a digital world requires good content and great hospitality
  • To develop a great digital brand, you need to find the right tension between uniqueness and accessibility
  • A digital brand can take on a life of its own once you get the flywheel spinning

Contact Sam Oches at [email protected]

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