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Saturday 21 May 2022

Pita Pit brands going from virtual to reality

16th March 2022 By Bridget O'Connell | | @foodtickernz

Quick service restaurant franchise Pita Pit has used the pandemic to validate new food concepts via virtual brand launches, and is now working up a plan for a brick-and-mortar rollout.

PIta Pit covid-era virtual brand Egg’d

The New Zealand group’s co-founder and chief executive, Duane Dalton, said its virtual brands Bowl’d and Egg’d were born out of a necessity to keep the 15-year-old, 84-strong group financially viable over the pandemic.

“A couple of years ago when we went into that first lockdown we had to ask how do we stay viable, and relevant,” Dalton said.

“We looked at trying to get registered as an essential service for home deliveries and we were unsuccessful on that front so it was a case of going ‘well, how else do we help our stores?'”

The emergence of aggregator platforms such as Uber Eats and Menulog coupled with people staying home and general fear around going out, led them to develop the two new food propositions utilising the kitchens at existing Pita Pit stores.

“It’s been a great way for brands to test and learn. Rather than having to spend half-a-million dollars on a fit-out to trial a concept, you can do it with a good in-house chef and a little bit of knowledge of the industry to bring to market a concept.”

Dalton described the Egg’d concept as a play on the Kiwi love of bacon and eggs, and said by going after the business corporate market and occasions such as morning meetings the group had expanded into a new daypart not previously occupied by Pita Pit.

(l-r) Chris Henderson and Duane Dalton

“[The virtual brands] have been highly successful in terms of sweating the asset,” he said.

At present, the two concepts are available in 28 stores but Dalton said they were hoping to roll out the brands to the entire franchise by the end of the year.

The successful proof of concept has given the group the confidence to move the brands into a brick-and-mortar format, although Dalton was not keen to give away details ahead of the proposed launch in the second half of the year.

He and his business partner, Pita Pit co-founder Chris Henderson, were also piloting a new social enterprise, Club Grub.

The scalable digital food court concept has seen them partner with fellow QSR group Mariposa Restaurant Holdings, which counts the Mexicali and Burger Wisconsin brands in its stable.

The venture, led by Henderson, would see Club Grub outlets set up at sports clubs around the country offering a slimmed-down version of the participating brands’ menus. Customers could order in person or online, with dedicated parking spaces for pickup.

A percentage of all sales would go back to the club, with another percentage going directly towards equipment or uniforms for the club, Dalton said.

Club Grub is being piloted at Auckland’s Silverdale Rugby & Sports Club seven days a week from 10am to 9pm.

Henderson and Dalton were in talks with other clubs about opening new locations as part of the venture, which would not be a franchise, and had also engaged with Sport New Zealand chief executive Raelene Castle.



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