TikTok to launch 300 delivery-only kitchens offering app’s viral dishes

Social media platform partnering with Virtual Dining Concepts

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew and Virtual Dining Concepts' Robert Earl (Twitter, Virtual Dining Concepts, iStock)

A new ghost kitchen concept will soon bring TikTok’s greatest cooking creations off the “For You” page and into users’ hands.

The social media platform announced last week it’s partnering with Virtual Dining Concepts to open about 300 delivery-only kitchens across the United States. The concept is expected to launch in March and include more than 1,000 locations by the end of 2022.

The menu will include viral dishes from the app, such as baked feta pasta and pasta chips, as well as a burger option. According to Bloomberg, the menu of the restaurants will change quarterly in response to the latest viral food videos on the app.

Virtual Dining Concepts has previous experience in the space, including its partnership with YouTube star Jimmy Donaldson to launch the MrBeast Burger in Fall 2020. Bloomberg noted the restaurant sold more than one million burgers in three months and has expanded to more than 1,500 locations in three countries.

Virtual Dining Concepts co-founder Robert Earl is set to contribute space to the venture from his national chains, including Buca di Beppo and Bertucci’s.

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Profits from the partnership will be reinvested into the creators behind the viral food dishes and to support further culinary talent on the app. It’s not clear, however, how much revenue TikTok is hoping to make and how it will decide who the creator of a dish is, as the users responsible for the viral dishes won’t be named on the menu.

The business of delivery-only restaurants — sometimes referred to as ghost kitchens — has picked up sizable investments in recent years. Last October, the Wall Street Journal reported former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick purchased more than 40 properties for more than $130 million. The purchases were tied to his company CloudKitchens, a startup renting available space to food delivery businesses.

After almost a year since the onset of the pandemic, the New York Times reported on the rising number of hotels cutting deals with ghost kitchens to rent space as the properties struggled with lower occupancy and closures. As national demand for food delivery shows no signs of slowing down, the ghost kitchen industry is predicted to be worth $1 trillion in the next decade.

[Bloomberg] — Holden Walter-Warner