Online ordering platform Lunchbox announced today it has teamed up with virtual kitchen company C3 (Creating Culinary Communities) to create a virtual food hall, much of it devoted to higher-end eats from top chefs. C3 will use Lunchbox’s restaurant tech platform to power the food hall, which will unite C3’s brands under a single ordering interface.
C3, which is a partnership between SBE Entertainment Group, shopping mall company Simon, and Accor Hospitality Group, operates a network of ghost kitchens and delivery-only restaurant brands. Virtual brands currently include the delivery-only version of the popular Unami Burger, a plant-based concept in collaboration with Impossible Foods called Plant Nation, and a caviar bar called 12 Chairs, among others. The bulk of C3’s restaurant brands are, in the company’s own words, “higher-end meals that can withstand 30-minute delivery routes.” Hence the caviar bar. C3 said it also plans to launch seven additional brands in the coming months and have 200 digital kitchens in operation by the end of the year.
The partnership with Lunchbox will give C3 the technology chops to bring its many restaurant brands under a single virtual roof. Customers will be able to browse and purchase meals from all C3 brands via the Lunchbox interface. That includes group orders from multiple restaurants.
Lunchbox’s software bundles together digital order processing, loyalty programs, delivery dispatch, marketing, analytics, and more into a single interface which restaurants pay a flat monthly fee to use. The company raised $2 million in February of this year and has multiple partnerships with other restaurant tech companies, including Ordermark and Toast.
Virtual food halls seem an obvious next step, what with the pandemic shuttering restaurants left and right and businesses basically being forced to work in off-premises formats. Last month, NYC-based Zuul launched its own virtual food hall to accompany its ghost kitchen network, and Texas-based grocery chain H-E-B recently unveiled a hybrid grocery store and food hall available for takeout and delivery.
If it proves popular, C3’s virtual network for higher-end foods could provide some blueprint materials for other full-service restaurants, which have been hit the hardest by industry-wide shutdowns. Much of that will depend on the type of food these high-end restaurants are serving, and if they can alter their menus to accommodate some transit. It’s not ideal for these types of restaurants, which were crated around the dine-in experience, but it’s at least some lifeline in these perpetually uncertain times.