Dive Brief:

  • Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, which has 550 locations, has partnered with Combo Kitchen to expand its brand through ghost kitchens nationwide, according to a press release. Combo Kitchens expects to open Dickey’s in at least 100 locations within the next year.
  • Combo Kitchen, which connects its franchisees to restaurant brands, offers owners and entrepreneurs the ability to select from established brands for placement in new or existing restaurants to offer takeout and delivery only.
  • Combo Kitchen has been expanding its restaurant partnerships of late, adding WOWorks‘ Saladworks and Frutta Bowls to its list of brands in April. The pandemic helped speed up the growth and development of ghost and virtual kitchens as more people ordered delivery, accelerating the segment by five years in three months.

Dive Insight:

Dickey’s partnership with Combo Kitchen builds on the barbecue chain’s ongoing ghost kitchen strategy. The company opened virtual kitchens to franchisees and executed agreements last year to bring its units to Chicago; Houston; Orlando, Florida; Providence, Rhode Island; Las Vegas and San Francisco. It also launched two virtual brands this year, expanding Big Deal Burger to over 45 locations across 12 states, and Wing Boss to over 60 locations after initial tests in Dallas. Operators will also have access to the two virtual brands through the Combo Kitchen partnership.

“Combo Kitchen is a unique franchising opportunity which allows us flexibility to enter new markets at a much lower build cost for operators,” Roland Dickey, Jr., CEO of Dickey’s Capital Group, said in the press release. He added that “interest among new and existing franchisees combined with utilizing the convenience provided by Combo Kitchen” can help Dickey’s better leverage delivery demand.

Dickey’s is on a rapid growth tear with brick-and-mortar locations as well, signing 67 franchise agreements across 10 states and opening 60 units across 13 states during Q1 2021. It also opened its 95th convenience store location in Carrollton, Texas.

Dickey’s joins a long list of chains growing through traditional ghost and host kitchen models. SaladworksWow BaoQuizno’s and sister company Taco Del Mar have all partnered with Ghost Kitchen Brands, with most locations set to open in Walmart stores. Nathan’s Famous, Fat Brands and Noodles & Company have also been expanding with ghost kitchens. Others, including Chick-fil-AApplebee’sRed RobinDenny’sBloomin’ Brands and Brinker International, have launched virtual brands as a way to increase revenue.