If you’re an entrepreneur who has heard the buzz around virtual brands but feels intimidated about the process or how to get started— you’ve come to the right place!
In the following article, we’re going to tell you how to quickly and easily launch your first virtual brand for your restaurant using the resources you already have. If you’d rather learn through a webinar, watch a recording of our latest webinar, “how to create a successful virtual brand for your restaurant,” led by Otter expert Billy. The presentation is interactive and features real restaurateurs asking live questions. Along with answering these common questions, Billy covers what a virtual brand is, the top reasons to create one, how to find a good concept and choose a name, and tips on creating the perfect virtual brand menu.
If you’re more of a reader than a viewer, continue scrolling to dig into everything you need to know about virtual brands.
Virtual brands are digital storefronts on delivery platforms like Uber Eats, Just Eat, and Deliveroo. That’s where the name comes from: they are called “virtual” because the customer can only see and order from these restaurants online.
A single restaurant can have multiple brands in the same space, making many restaurants more profitable. For example, if your restaurant is well known for its tacos but also makes burgers, you can start a separate burger virtual brand.
While the phrase “virtual brands” sounds futuristic—it is actually already a popular practice worldwide. Even large chains are now launching virtual brands. In fact, delivery platforms such as Uber Eats are recommending that restaurant owners get involved in virtual catering to stay ahead of the curve.
Today’s customers have no problem ordering food from places they haven't tried before, so creating a new brand has multiple benefits:
First things first, it’s time to come up with a concept for your virtual brand.
Start by thinking about what type of customers you’re looking to attract with a new offering. Head over to the delivery platforms and begin by asking yourself some questions: what kind of food is popular in your area? Is there something missing in the area? What are your best-performing items, and how can you take advantage of them?
Maybe you offer a couple of vegetarian dishes on your menu that have been well received. How about creating a separate vegetarian virtual brand? A salad-bar? Maybe your desserts are trendy and could have their brand.
Think about what concepts are already 100% adapted to delivery. You must consider factors such as prep times, profit margin, temperature, and ease of delivery. It is best to focus on simple dishes with ingredients similar to what you already use in your main brand. Remember that you can experiment with more than one virtual brand to get the most out of your kitchen.
Note: the goal is for the customer to think that you specialise in this type of cuisine. When a customer goes on a delivery platform like Uber Eats or Just Eat and wants to eat a burger, they’ll probably go directly to a burger restaurant. So instead of offering just a burger on your main menu, you can become a burger specialist!
If you have different categories in your menu, you can split it up and create specialised brands.
What’s great is that you will use the same ingredients and resources that you already have. In most cases, you’re going to offer the same dishes that you do today, but you’re selling them differently with different positioning. This will allow you to reach new customers and differentiate your business.
Still, we advise keeping your main restaurant. First, you already have a customer base that orders from you because they know you and like your food. Second, even if you set up multiple virtual restaurants, these won’t steal customers from your main one. You’ll only have new customers added to your customer base.
Choosing a new brand name is simple as there are some combinations that work every time. Here are some thought-starters:
Beyond these examples, feel free to be imaginative and take inspiration from what you can see on Uber Eats, Just Eat, or Deliveroo, for example.
Note: Remember to check the availability of the name you choose.
It’s time to move on to an essential step: creating the perfect menu.
We have analysed several thousand restaurants to create this structure which is the most optimised for delivery, mainly due to its simplicity. Did you know that before placing an order, a customer visits around six different restaurant pages? As soon as a menu seems a little too complicated, they simply move on to the next restaurant. That’s why we recommend having six main product categories with four to six products in each category. See below for the ideal menu structure:
Increase your average ticket value by adding options to your dishes. Every dish should have at least one option, ideally with multiple ingredients to add. Your goal is to make it easy for your customers to add a sauce or an extra, to avoid such requests as “please replace the fries with a salad” which are twice as likely to lead to mistakes.
To boost your average basket size, your products should have a suggestion to add something (sides, drinks, desserts).
Note: Use such phrases as “Frequently ordered together.”
Increase your average basket size by adding photos to your online menu. Menus that have one photo per item receive more orders.
Provide accurate descriptions to avoid any complaints (ex. unexpected ingredients, size, etc.) As far as the descriptions, you have to be as precise as possible to avoid complaints. Avoid spelling mistakes, capital letters, and make your descriptions between 140 and 260 characters long. You can also use emojis on your descriptions as they tend to perform great.
Now that you know what a virtual brand is, how it works, and how to develop a concept, name, and menu—it’s time to learn the five main tips for ensuring your virtual brand succeeds:
1. Quality first. When working solely with delivery, prep and delivery times should be two of your key considerations. However, you should not sacrifice the quality of your dishes. Make sure you come up with a simple concept that allows your staff to manage more than one brand without impacting service levels.
2. Packaging. When it comes to delivery, the packaging is a big part of your brand image. Containers not only allow your guests to receive their dishes properly, but they are also a reflection of your identity and one of the first points of contact they will have with your concept.
3. Customer connection. Because your customers will only be interacting with your brand on delivery platforms, you have an opportunity to find creative ways to turn one-time orderers into loyal customers. How about including thank you notes or promotions in each bag? Anything that allows your restaurant to show the customer that you appreciate their business will help in this area.
4. Promotions. Promotions are one of the best tools to make yourself stand out on delivery platforms. You can experiment with different ideas: promotions for regular customers, a free dessert for first-time customers, or a percentage discount on your most popular dishes.
When you create a new virtual brand, you get an additional tablet to receive orders. Your sales increase, but your space gets more cluttered, and your operations become messier.
That’s where Otter comes in. Otter is a solution that merges all your delivery accounts on one tablet and one printer.
With Otter, you’ll be able to manage your delivery business from start to finish: