Owning a digitally exclusive brand may have been inconceivable a year ago, but an increasing number of restaurants are preferring to focus on their online footprint. New York Citybased Ottos Tacos is one brand moving its real estate digital, and is using barbecue restaurant Mighty Quinns to help it do so.

“[Ottos Tacos and Mighty Quinns] kind of came up with the idea of bringing back Ottos Tacos as a deliveryonly concept,” Mighty Quinns cofounder Micha Magid says. “We didnt really have the bandwidth or desire to open up more brickand mortarlocations, and were lucky in that Ottos four restaurants were located in areas that we had serviced through Mighty Quinns footprint.”

Under this partnership structure, Mighty Quinns licenses Ottos Tacos name and fulfills orders from its kitchen. Customers then receive their digital order from Ottos Tacos using firstor thirdparty platforms.

The roots of this partnership stretch prepandemic, as the two brands lived about a block away from each other in New York Citys East Village. When COVID-19 challenged Ottos Tacos ability to survive after seven years as a brick and mortar, the two brands kept in contact and developed the partnership.

Otto’s Tacos has served customers for more than a month under this new setup, and Magid says the partnership has gone smoothly.

Everything is done out of the Mighty Quinns kitchens. Ottos Tacos is obviously very supportive of what were doing and are with us to ensure that everything were doing in our kitchen meets the Ottos Tacos brand standard,” he says. “The food is coming out exactly the same as it was under their locations.”

For Magid, the food itself is one aspect that makes the partnership so seamless. Even though Mexican food and barbecue are two distinct restaurant categories, Ottos Tacos’ simple menu allows Mighty Quinns to step into another food category without expending a significant amount of resources. But this may not be the case for every restaurant collaboration.

Not all kitchens were set up to do everything. For example, a dumpling shop cant crank out brickoven pizzas,” Magid says. “I think its really trying to find where your core competency lives and what your infrastructure will allow you to do.”

For restaurants that do find their ghost kitchen match, there can be big advantages in a similar type of partnership. In Mighty Quinns case, working Ottos Tacos into their earnings didnt require any capital investment to start. The partnership also allowed Mighty Quinns to use available kitchen space due to the lack of catering orders and overall sales shift.

Considering the brutal effects of COVID-19 on New York Citys restaurant industry, finding another source of income may be the difference between sinking or survival. By August 2020, employment in the restaurant industry was still only 55 percent of its prepandemic levels in February. And though indoor dining bans have lifted in some parts of New York, New York City had been slow to recover.

Conversely, the pandemic brought flocks of new consumers to the digital scene. According to a survey from market research group Morning Consult, more than 25 percent of people are willing to wait at least six months before eating inperson at a restaurant or cafe.

This shift wasnt a problem for Mighty Quinns, which had already developed its offpremises system when indoor dining shut down in March. Magid says the restaurant industrys move to the digital space was something years in the making.

This trend towards digital and offpremises consumption was obviously a very strong growth driver before the pandemic,” he says. “COVID just accelerated that trend probably by about three or four years, and did it in three or four months. So we were already going therewe just got there quicker.”

But while technology has made partnerships like this a new moneymaking opportunity, Magid wants to continue focusing on Mighty Quinns growth. He doesnt anticipate the need to work with other restaurant brands in the ghost kitchen capacity as it looks to expand.

Magid instead sees the second source of income as a way to stay profitable while it finds franchisees in new markets. As New York Citys fickle restaurant restrictions keep Mighty Quinns in a waitandsee mode for growth, working with Ottos Tacos gives the barbecue brands strategy a reliable source of revenue.

This [partnership] is really something that wasnt really part of our plan necessarily at the start of the year. It was just an opportunistic thing to pursue,” Magid says. “For us, we just continue to focus on our core restaurants. This is something we were able to supplement what had already been on the plan for 2021.”

Fast Casual, Web Exclusives, Mighty Quinn's