With the future of indoor dining still in flux amid the pandemic, Toronto restaurants are continuing to pivot their business models to stay afloat. Kinka Family, the hospitality group behind restaurants like Kinton Ramen and Neo Coffee Bar, is expanding its delivery options with the launch of two new virtual restaurants. Also known as “ghost kitchens” or “ghost restaurants,” virtual restaurants have no physical location and therefore rely on digital ordering and takeout to serve diners.
“Prior to the second wave of indoor dining shutdowns, we knew that we needed to better prepare ourselves for another disruption to our business,” says Stella Yu, director of marketing for Kinka Family.
During this uncertain time for the dining industry, Yu says that virtual restaurants were a natural way for Kinka to grow their business, allowing the group to leverage their existing spaces and kitchen teams.
“Much of the appeal that came with launching virtual restaurant concepts was that most of the elements needed to operate successfully already existed within our physical restaurants,” she says.
“Third-party vendors like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and SkipTheDishes were driving a lot of our business, and we recognized the opportunity to lean into these thriving business models and capitalize on the existing audiences who were ready to try new restaurants from the comfort of their homes,” adds Yu.
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Yu says the Kinka team spent several weeks testing the recipes for their two virtual restaurants, Tokyo Sando & Chicken and JapaSando & Co., with a focus on creating dishes that would travel well to cater to takeout customers.
Both concepts are centred on unfussy, Japanese sandwiches. Tokyo Sando features sandwiches marinated in soy sauce, including Karaage fried chicken and deep-fried horse mackerel; while JapaSando & Co. aims to appeal to diners looking for a filling but healthier option with its lighter, oven-baked sandwiches.
“Each virtual restaurant pulls inspiration from Japanese culture and cuisine and embodies the goal we have had at the company since day one, which is to revolutionize the Japanese hospitality experience,” says Yu.
Tokyo Sando & Chicken and JapaSando & Co. are now offering delivery via Uber Eats and DoorDash throughout Ontario and Quebec, with Yu adding that Kinka will be introducing an in-house ordering platform in the coming weeks. The group is also set to roll out two additional virtual restaurant concepts before the end of the year.