- Chuck E. Cheese is bringing its virtual brand, LankyBox Kitchen, to brick-and-mortar stores as a limited-time offering, according to a press release emailed to Restaurant Dive.
- The $15.99 LankyBox Kitchen Bundle includes branded packaging featuring images of LankyBox’s characters, a choice of mac and cheese flavors and “a QR code for unique rewards, plus 100 E-tickets, and LankyBox trading cards.”
- The brand, which is a collaboration between Chuck E. Cheese, Virtual Dining Concepts, and the popular LankyBox YouTube channel, launched in November for delivery only.
Chuck E. Cheese said the deal, which is available while supplies last, is one of the first examples of a restaurant bringing its virtual brand partnerships to the dine-in experience. But Applebee’s added items from its Cosmic Wings brand to its in-store menu in August, while Wingstop folded its Thighstop virtual offering into its core menu just three months after launch.
Chuck E. Cheese did not immediately clarify if it planned to turn LankyBox’s kitchen bundle into a permanent menu addition, but the LTO may provide a way to test items from this brand in-restaurant.
The move, which will make clearer the association between LankyBox Kitchen and Chuck E. Cheese, may also avert potential consumer backlash toward ghost kitchens and virtual brands. A recent video essay by Eddy Burback, which was viewed 4.8 million times and liked 266,000 times, took issue with virtual brands that offered nearly identical products from kitchens that were not clearly associated with identifiable restaurants. Its possible such sentiment prodded Uber Eats to purge duplicate menus and implement a more transparent process for virtual brand deployment.
LankyBox’s virtual food offerings target children and families as its primary market demographic. The entertainment brand, which has 24.3 million YouTube subscribers, is based around characters in Roblox, a children’s game that recently moved to ban advertisements aimed at children under 13 following public criticism.
Despite trouble in the restaurant tech sector, like the failure of Butler Hospitality last spring, or Reef Technology’s retreat from mobile kitchens, interest in virtual brands remains significant. Nathan’s Famous and IHOP have both partnered with virtual brand platform Nextbite to expand their stables of virtual brands in the last two months. IHOP’s latest virtual brand is also backed by Noah Schnapp, an actor on Netflix show Stanger Things, which is aimed at broad age demographics.