Virtual restaurants aren’t new in Chicago. After Chen’s Chinese Cuisine vanished from Wrigleyville years ago, it became strictly a delivery-only operation using Grubhub. But restaurants without seating, kitchen-only operations that diners can’t visit, are gaining popularity in Chicago. The Tribune details the story behind a Lakeview storefront that’s home to nine different types of cuisine.
The former Burger Boss at Southport and Belmont houses Authentic, Blue Crown Wings, Melt 350, Bloodshot Nights, Mac Royale, and F.I.S.H. Poke Bar. These are brands that Green Summit tested with success in New York. Green Summit CEO Peter Schatzberg told the Trib that customers only care about the quality of the food, not where their food is prepared. In Green Summit’s case it’s inside a 2,000-square-foot kitchen in an unassuming storefront on the Southport corridor. Schatzberg is already planning to open a second virtual restaurant in Chicago, this time in Streeterville, sometime this fall.
Others, even Hogsalt Hospitality’s Brendan Sodikoff (Au Cheval), are considering opening their own delivery-only restaurants. Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises launched their own virtual restaurant inside Oyster Bah in Lincoln Park. Instead of seafood, diners can order barbecue ribs and fried chicken at Seaside’s. Earlier this month, WHISK—the West Town brunch favorite—started a new concept, offering an exclusive menu available only via Uber Eats. Whisky Chic serves southern-style fried chicken and other items not available at Whisk’s two brick-and-mortar spaces. It gives staff a chance to experiment and see what are winners. The food is prepared at WHISK.
“I thought it was a cool concept since a lot of places are doing pop-ups,” WHISK co-owner Rick Rodriguez said. “We figured this was easier since we already knew what to expect from Uber Eats.”
A delivery-only concept certainly decreases labor costs, which can be attractive to restaurant owners. WHISK is enjoying the best of both worlds, operating brick and mortar locations and enjoying tremendous success working with a variety of delivery services.
Will virtual restaurants take off in Chicago? Sound off in the comments.