What will Applebee’s and Boston Market learn from their virtual restaurants?
Applebee’s, Boston Market and Chuck E. Cheese are all facing a backlash for creating separate online-only restaurants and being vague about their connection.
All three chains created their “virtual restaurants” using delivery apps such as Grubhub, Seamless and Uber Eats.
As described on a “Creating a Virtual Restaurant” microsite by UberEats, a restaurant can have two online restaurants — one with a name and menu of the physical restaurant and another with a different name and menu. The two share the same kitchen. Uber Eats said, “This program allows you to create new brands and deliver new cuisines to customers, without the risk and expense of opening another physical location.”
For Chuck E. Cheese, Applebee’s and Boston Market, the separate online restaurants allow the companies to test new items for their core banners in addition to new concepts.
Some consumers appear confused, however. One told CNN she was looking to support a local restaurant and was disappointed to find she ordered from Chuck E. Cheese. Another said on social media, “Why are you lying to me about where my food comes from?”
The app for the online-only restaurant links back to the physical, parent restaurant.
Chuck E. Cheese, Applebee’s and Boston Market say they are not intentionally hiding their relation to their side online businesses. The chains also stress that the online-only concepts are distinct:
- Rotisserie Roast, which includes “Crafted by Boston Market” in small lettering on the logo, is being tested online in Miami and Philadelphia. The concept promises “new and modern takes” on Boston Market, including quinoa rice and a roasted zucchini and tomato sandwich.
- Neighborhood Wings, which similarly features “By Applebee’s” in the logo, was rolled out to over nearly 750 restaurants nationwide over the last four months. The menu features a new Honey Pepper Sauce wing flavor as well as different ordering options than Applebee’s.
- Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings, named after one of Chuck E. Cheese’s characters, was recently rolled out nationwide as an online-only restaurant but makes no mention of Chuck E. Cheese in its marketing. The pizza features a thicker crust, extra sauce, and new blends of cheese and seasoning than those on the parent brand’s menu.
- Creating a Virtual Restaurant – Uber
- Some chain restaurants have turned to food delivery apps but they’re hidden behind different names – CNN
- Chuck E. Cheese Creates New Brand for Third-Party Platform – QSR Magazine
- Chuck E. Cheese and Applebee’s are delivering food under different restaurant names – Today
- Chuck E. Cheese And Applebee’s Have Launched Delivery-Only Spin-Off Restaurants Under Different Names – Delish
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are Chuck E. Cheese, Applebee’s and Boston Market being transparent enough about their involvement with online-only restaurants? What do you think of the potential of virtual restaurants as secondary online restaurants for independents or larger chains?