Virtual brands will “only be complimentary” to physical brands if they’re approached correctly, Julieta Suarez Ruiz de Huidobro, head of Byron’s ecommerce, told delegates at MCA’s Hostech event last week.

As part of Hostech’s delivery panel, Huidobro discussed the success of Byron’s first virtual brand, mac’n’cheese concept Cheese Louise, which launched on Deliveroo in December.

“People can’t be eating burgers for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday so if there’s an opportunity for us to offer people a different kind of product that would appeal to them then we’ll do it,” she said.

“It’s working well and the teams love it. It’s all about how you set up the virtual brand and considering what operational impact it might have. If you get all those aspects in line when you prepare and plan it, then it’ll only be a complimentary thing that will create another source of revenue.”

After an initial trail roll out in three stores, Byron is not only in the process of rolling the brand out to its entire estate, but is also considering potential avenues to take it offline.

“We’re all about continued innovation. The virtual brand has been a great success and now we’re looking at starting a pop-up restaurant, either a small restaurant or in a marketplace, we’re exploring options. Just because it’s a virtual brand doesn’t mean that it has to stay as a virtual brand forever.”

If the specific requirements of virtual brands are considered with care and attention, they can be just as successful as physical brands, added Kitopi managing director Phil Peters, also on the panel.

“Three or four years ago you could create a virtual brand, put it on Deliveroo and expect to see a decent number of orders roll in fairly quickly without much attention or much thought. That’s much more difficult these days,” he said.

“They must be very delivery focussed, thinking about how they package and deliver their product and how they ensure that the quality of food the customer receives at the door is as good, if not better, than what they might receive immediately after it’s been cooked.”

The panel, which included Deliveroo’s director of global business development Justin Landsberger and Deliverect CFO Jerome Laredo, also discussed the importance of integration and data collaboration when considering third party delivery.

Whilst Laredo highlighted the important of integration to aid a “seamless” order flow system, Landsberger explained how the delivery giant is aiming to become as integrated as possible, working collaboratively with brands both operationally and on data to facilitate a smooth experience.

“The one thing that we’ve always been conscious of is wanting to provide an incremental revenue stream that was not impacting the normal running of the restaurant. Anything that we can do to facilitate a more seamless experience we absolutely would love to do,” he said.

“Our business is all about collaboration with our partners, without our partners we don’t have a business. That’s the bottom line when it comes to all the decisions that we make, including those regarding data. I think as long as our aspiration stays the same then we’ll continue to find a happy medium with our restaurant partners.”

In December, Deliveroo announced the number of virtual brands available on its UK platform hit 2,000 after rising by 150% in 2019.