"Certified Virtual Restaurants"
Uber Eats plays matchmaker between independent restaurants and certain virtual concepts
Fine, I will admit it: MrBeast Burger is not a fad. The virtual burger chain started by a YouTuber who has amassed 130 million followers by being a literal nice guy in his videos is 2 ½ years old and entrenched in the restaurant industry. It’s become a standard for what a successful brand activation can achieve. And it just got another big stamp of approval.
Uber Eats announced last week that it’s endorsing certain virtual restaurant concepts from a handful of partners, MrBeast included. Uber’s certified virtual restaurants program connects small and medium restaurants to nationally known concepts from Virtual Dining Concepts, Nexbite, and Acelerate. At the same time, it’s cracking down on a certain subset of confusing and spammy restaurant listings. It’s a big step forward for the concept of virtual brands, and a look at how they’ll fit into the larger restaurant industry moving forward.
There was once a time when Uber Eats used its own data to encourage restaurants to host second, delivery-only concepts out of their kitchens.
This was before “ghost kitchens” became a viral term and before it turned into a potentially lucrative industry. Now we’ve reached the other side: the sheer volume of delivery-only concepts is weighing Uber down. The company is moving to remove some 5,000 listings from the app, representing 13 percent of virtual brands. According to the Wall Street Journal:
“Among those scheduled to be removed: 12 virtual brands selling identical breakfast burritos from a Colorado sports bar; 14 brands serving the same sandwiches from a New York City deli; and online-only options from a San Francisco-based Pakistani restaurant that, at one point, replicated its menu 20 times. Uber Eats declined to share names.”
The company will also enforce certain standards for ghost kitchens and their parent restaurants: they must maintain a rating of at least 4.3 stars with a cancellation rate of 5 percent or less. Menu items have to differ by at least 60 percent from other virtual restaurants operating from the same address. And ghost kitchens must include photos of five items that are unique to its menu.
DoorDash and Grubhub have already put such controls in place. Together with Uber’s culling, the moves signify virtual brands are entering a new and even more legitimate phase, governed by certain expectations from the platforms that allowed them to proliferate in the first place.
But just as notable as what Uber’s kicking off its platform is what it’s specifically hyping: established brands that are purpose-built to perform on third-party apps.
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