A few years ago, established restaurant companies were creating new eateries to appeal to younger consumers. That trend hasn’t slowed down, but now those spinoff brands exist in only cyberspace.

Virtual brands are restaurants available only on third-party delivery apps. Their creators use existing restaurant kitchens to whip up orders from a menu that was designed for off-premise customers. Pizza, chicken wings and burgers are popular options because they all travel well and don’t usually require extra equipment to make.

While virtual brands were becoming more popular before the pandemic, the boom of takeout and delivery orders during the health crisis has led many more restaurant companies to take the plunge. For many companies, virtual brands were one of the few bright spots for the businesses during lockdowns. In the 12 months ended March 2021, U.S. restaurant digital orders grew 124%, according to the NPD Group.

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