Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar and Michael Mina Debut Virtual Chicken Brands

This article was written by Nancy Luna for NRN

Prior to the pandemic, Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar began thinking about new revenue channels to offset labor challenges within the casual-dining sector.

For CEO Chris Simms, that meant taking advantage of the chain’s large kitchens, which are about 2,500-square feet. Over the next two years, Simms wanted to develop a delivery-only brand and frozen “TV dinner” meals for diners to cook at home. 

But when the pandemic hit in March, those long-term ideas quickly moved to the front of the line. 

TV dinners debuted during the peak of the pandemic when meal kits and family meals were high in demand during stay at home orders. This week, Lazy Dog debuted its first virtual brand, Jolene’s Wings & Beer. The menu, available for delivery and pickup, can be found on third-party delivery apps like Grubhub and DoorDash. The company is using its 39 restaurants as dark kitchens for the menu. 

“The pandemic basically just encouraged us to do all of the things that we had in our strategic plan over the next couple of years but [instead] pulled all of it forward into 2020,” Simms said during a recent phone interview with Nation’s Restaurant News.

The Southern California-based casual-dining concept, which made NRN’s Top 200 list for the first time this year, is entering a crowded space. Jolene’s joins a tidal wave of virtual brands that have emerged during the pandemic – developed by a range of operators from indie restaurants to celebrity chefs to national chains…

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