JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – You can drive around all you want in the Tri-Cities, but you won’t see a sign for Mr. Beast Burger or Wing Squad.
Despite the secrecy, these two new restaurants are no further than a few clicks away. Ghost kitchens, a new dining concept, have opened up additional options for existing local and national restaurants.
When COVID-19 hit, foodservice was one of the hardest hit industries, facing dining room restrictions, worker shortages and supply chain slowdowns. This year, one local business owner is planning on making a comeback.
“It’s still a squeeze right now but I’m looking for an extremely good fall for the restaurant business,” said Ramone Sanchez-Vinas, co-owner of Hokie Smokie BBQ. “Things coming down, people being back at work, labor being a little bit more available.”
Some of this recovery is due to the addition of two new ghost kitchens: delivery-only restaurants that partner with existing locations to host national brands, often associated with celebrities.
Instead of ordering in-house, anyone who wants a Mr. Beast Burger or chicken wings from Wing Squad has to order on proprietary apps or other delivery apps like Doordash and Grubhub.
Sanchez-Vinas said the onboarding process took around a month with training, standards, marketing and infrastructure provided by the parent company, Virtual Dining Concepts (VDC).
Celebrity brand partnerships are the bread and butter of VDC’s business strategy, and they have amassed some pretty big names:
- Tyga – Tyga Bites
- Mr. Beast – Mr. Beast Burger
- Mariah Carey – Mariah’s Cookies
- Mario Lopez – Mario’s Tortas Lopez
- Pauly D – Pauly D’s Italian Subs
While you may not see all of them cropping up in the Tri-Cities, you can expect a regional favorite soon.
NASCAR Refuel is coming to Hokie Smokie’s kitchen, and promises fan-favorite dishes from NASCAR concessions around the country.