'Ghost kitchen' delivery options expanding on Waitr

Lafayette-based food delivery company Waitr is growing its relationship with 'ghost kitchens' — delivery-only food brands without a physical location — and adding a number of concepts tied to celebrities.

The company announced Tuesday that it partnered with Virtual Dining Concepts, allowing Waitr to carry its concepts on the app. Virtual Dining Concepts contracts existing restaurants to produce food for its delivery-only entities.

“The new partnership with Virtual Dining Concepts represents an unprecedented number of quality additions to our restaurant selection,” said Carl Grimstad, CEO and chairman of the board of Waitr. “The new brands encompass many of the most sought-after food delivery categories today and we’re thrilled to deliver them to our loyal customers.”

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Under the partnership, Waitr would initiate discussions with restaurants on its platform about creating new delivery-only options via Virtual Dining Concepts.

Virtual Dining Concepts' brands heavily lean into pop culture appeal with concepts targeting Gen-Z customers. Brands include TikTok Kitchen, which has a menu based around popular food trends on the social media app, and Barstool Bites, which targets fans of the Barstool Sports network.

The company also has several brands tied to celebrities, including Mariah's Cookies (with Mariah Carey lending her name), Pauly D's Italian Subs and Steve Harvey's Family Food.

“We are thrilled with the partnership with Waitr,” said Trish Giordano, VDC co-founder. “Waitr has opened up new markets for us so that we can offer our very popular brands in areas where we previously didn’t have much of a presence.”

This is not Waitr's first move in the ghost kitchen space. In February, the company partnered with Nextbite to offer delivery from its virtual brands. The company had also had brands like Pasqually's Pizza and Wings, which is Chuck E. Cheese's delivery-only identity.

So, what is a ghost kitchen?

Ghost kitchens are a fast-growing trend in the food delivery space. Essentially, a ghost kitchen refers to a food concept that is only available through delivery and has no physical space of its own.

These ghost kitchens can come in many forms. In Virtual Dining Concepts' model, they partner with an existing brick-and-mortar restaurant to produce food for a delivery-only brand. So a local pizza restaurant could be serving its customers under its own name at its physical location and online, while also operating a completely different brand — some times with completely different food — only online.

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It's also possible that brick-and-mortar restaurant will rebrand its delivery products under a completely different name. One example of this practice is Chuck E. Cheese. If you look on the Waitr app in Lafayette, you can see two pizza restaurants at the same physical location: Chuck E. Cheese and Pasqually's Pizza and Wings.

But Pasqually's Pizza and Wings is operated out of the Chuck E. Cheese kitchen. The concept is named after a member of Munch's Make Believe Band, the animatronic band that plays at most Chuck E. Cheese locations.

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Waitr expanding its partnership with 'ghost kitchens'