Restaurant delivery service has steadily improved over the years, thanks to the likes of Seamless, Postmates, and UberEats. But it’s only been relatively recently that restaurants have begun to think of delivery as a primary business model, rather than an add-on service.
One such company is The Madera Group, who last week joined the virtual restaurant movement when it launched Modern Organics Mexican, otherwise known as M | O | M. The service is a cross between the Los Angeles-based company’s upscale Toca Madera restaurants and its fresh-casual counterpart, Tocaya Organica. More importantly, it’s a delivery-only restaurant specializing in high-quality, organic foods chosen because they, according to The Madera Group, “travel well.” Because nothing’s worse than ordering a burrito online and receiving a soupy mess falling out of its tortilla.
The service will be available from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. for Angelinos, and will feature “homestyle” Mexican food sourced from organic ingredients. Delivery will be available via Postmates and UberEats.
Part of the inspiration for the service came from the huge success The Madera Group’s other restaurants have had with those third-party services. A service that catered to the delivery-only crowd seemed like the natural next step in the evolution of the brand. “M|O|M is an entirely new, delivery-only concept for us to bring more options for fresh, delicious and most of all, convenient Modern Organic Mexican to our customer’s doorsteps,” said Tosh Berman, CEO and Cofounder of The Madera Group.
The virtual restaurant an increasingly popular trend, especially in big cities like LA, where real estate prices are surging and many mom-and-pop businesses have shuttered because they can’t afford the rent. Virtual restaurants that rely on “ghost kitchens” eliminate the challenge of paying for dining room space, outside parking, and other features we expect with sit-down restaurants.
UberEats, of course, has been a huge influence on restaurant operators moving to a delivery-only model, and will even help these establishments broaden their businesses. Take Chicago’s Si-Pie Pizzeria, for example. UberEats had been doing business with the restaurant for about a year when they approached owner Simon Mikhail and asked him to start offering fried chicken. Apparently, there was an unmet demand for the stuff in Mikhail’s neighborhood. Working with UberEats, he created the delivery-only Si’s Chicken Kitchen, which is available through the app and has no physical location. As of October, sales of fried chicken have already surpassed delivery sales for the original pizzeria.
Then there are companies like the Green Summit Group, whose main focus is providing delivery services out of its commissaries around New York and Chicago. The company works off an exclusive deal with Grubhub/Seamless. Talking to Fast Company earlier this year, founder Peter Schatzberg pointed out that one of the advantages of operating a virtual restaurant is the ease with which you can switch concepts. If, for example, Mediterranean food isn’t selling, try sushi instead. “That ability to maneuver and build new brands is exponentially easier on a cost basis,” he said.
Even corporate chains are jumping on board. Earlier in November, Red Robin, that staple of suburban shopping malls everywhere, started testing a delivery-only restaurant in downtown Chicago.
And those places are a tiny fraction of what’s now available to consumers. Seriously, there are probably enough virtual restaurants at this point to form a Zagat Guide category in many cities. And if a restaurant like M|O|M proves successful, healthy, quality ingredients could become the new standard for virtual restaurants. At the very least, M|O|M will ensure that when you choose “burrito” from the menu, something that actually resembles one will be what shows up at your door.