NRN editors weigh in on what to expect from delivery, virtual restaurants and artificial intelligence

Restaurants without addresses

It’s easier than ever to create a virtual restaurant, and operators are starting to realize these “establishments” offer an easy way to test out new menu items and attract new clientele.

While operators could go it on their own, third-party delivery leaders such as Grubhub, Uber Eats and DoorDash are using their data to suggest concepts and shepherd operators through the process.

“This is where we add value — finding where customers are asking for the food [and creating] a marriage between diners’ demand and location,” said Padma Rao, vice president of special projects at Grubhub, discussing the company’s virtual restaurant partnership with Chicago restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and Bon Appetit magazine.

Another way to fulfill customers’ needs without opening a physical location is by working with the growing market of commissary kitchens established to support virtual restaurants. California-based Kitchen United is perhaps the best known in this segment. And with its recent $40 million Series B funding round, expect to see the company opening locations across the country in the year ahead.

— Gloria Dawson