The network of 100 NASCAR branded virtual restaurants was designed to get racing fans their favorite track snacks at home, but the speed by which the mega brand did so is as thrilling as the last lap of Daytona.
Dubbed NASCAR Refuel, the new app and food-delivery portal offers up some of the same food made famous by racetracks. As we previously covered, it’s a lot of hotdogs, burgers and fried-food favorites.
But in the pits, how the new brand came to be has some interesting lessons for other mega brands out there. The partnership that brings together a lot of notable names in the nascent ghost kitchen space and some logistics heavyweights.
Virtual Dining Concepts provided the kitchen infrastructure as it did with MrBeast Burger and Barstool Bites. Olo handles the bits and bobs of the digital orders and routes them to delivery platforms. Lunchbox developed the app and the interface that allows the consumer to plug into their branded restaurant. NASCAR then shouts from the mountaintop, as it did during its first race of the season on TV and across social media promoting the VDC concept.
For Lunchbox founder and CEO Nabeel Alamgir, it was a big, mission-critical project for his online ordering, delivery integration and restaurant marketing company.
“The headline for me is Lunchbox finally goes enterprise. We’re working with Olo and others. That’s the dream,” said Alamgir. “We’ve been helping 10- to 100-unit restaurants. Now we’ve gone upstream.”
He said big brands are looking at the creativity downstream, but also for speed to market. The whole project was done in about two months. While the industry is getting used to a faster pace of virtual kitchens launching, that was very fast.
“We did this project in 60 working days. My engineering team is exhausted, I want to make sure nobody gets more credit than my engineering team. I just think that’s amazing. The company I came from, Bareburger, it took us a decade to get to 100 locations,” said Alamgir.
In the past, projects like this have taken about six months from idea to launch, but across the industry that pace is accelerating. In the near term, Alamgir sees clients coming to Lunchbox, doing a lot of the menu work, nuts and bolts kind of things as a template and then innovating around the edges for each brand. That could speed up the ideation and launch of such virtual entities even further.
He said this project was fast, but three months is quite doable for a branded virtual concept like this. The bottleneck is now how fast the kitchens can get ingredients and create recipes for all the virtual chefs.
Lunchbox is like a lot of restaurant tech players out there that are growing explosively and leaning into the ongoing digital restaurant transformation that shows no sign of slowing down and giant brands are looking to capitalize on their own reach.
For VDC’s NASCAR brand to get to 100 locations across the country in various host kitchens is an interesting signal. Big food brands now see that they can grab some incremental revenue and get closer to their customers just as MrBeast, Guy Fieri and other celebrities have.
So, when does the Star Trek Replicator virtual restaurant arrive?