Bloomberg — On Nov. 11, DJ Khaled became the co-founder of one of the largest restaurant launches in history.
The Emmy award-winning producer, record executive, and unlikely Snapchat evangelist has partnered with ghost kitchen operator Reef Technology Inc. to create Another Wing. The delivery-only model is launching simultaneously with more than 150 kitchens in five countries: the U.S., the U.K., Canada, France, and the United Arab Emirates. In North America, it will operate in cities from Atlanta, Houston, and Los Angeles to Toronto and Vancouver.
“It’s the first restaurant concept to ever launch on three continents at the same time, with over 150 locations and growing,” said Khaled via email. He called it “making history in the world of food.”
“Reef and Khaled are both Miami-born and raised with global reach,” explains Alan Philips, Reef’s chief creative officer, about first proposing they team up. “Khaled is a creator—he has tens of millions of followers, billions of streams. We started talking about how we could bring something he loves to his fans.”
To create the concept, a team at Reef went over a list of Khaled’s favorite foods. Those dishes include jerk chicken, fried snapper, and the Middle Eastern rice dish lamb maqluba. “Wings stood out as something that’s universally loved and can be brought to many areas,” says Philips. The all-important branding includes hot pink bags emblazoned with Rolls Royces and palm trees; in Miami, the mode of delivery will also include jet ski.
Starting at $6.95 for a six-piece order, eight flavors will be offered initially, including Honey! Honey! Hot Honey Sriracha and Un Un Un Believable Buffalo. Khaled calls out his favorites as You Loyal! Lemon Pepper and They Don’t Want You to Win Truffalo, which mixes black truffles and spicy buffalo sauce. The wings will be available bone-in and boneless and are cooked sous vide before being fried, with plant-based options coming in the next two months, says Philips. Sides include jalapeño cheese fries and onion rings plus chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
Chicken wings are an attractive proposition for virtual brands. It’s Just Wings, the delivery-only concept of Chili’s, was scoring $3 million in weekly sales soon after launching in June 2020. In April, parent company Brinker’s International Inc. said the brand was scheduled to post $150 million in annual sales by the end of the year.
Reef, which runs over 5,000 tech-enhanced parking lots around North America and Europe, is the country’s largest operator of ghost kitchens. It has partnered with other high-profile entities, including MrBeast and Umami Burger; a new deal with Creating Culinary Communities (C3), the Sam Nazarian-backed food platform, will open and operate 800 virtual restaurants by 2025.
Philips declines to comment on details of the Khaled deal or revenue of the privately held company, although says the advantage for celebrities is obvious.
With kitchens located near dense, urban areas in which countless fans reside, Khaled “didn’t have to make a financial investment to get to 150 locations,” says Philips. “The cost to build one of our kitchens is less than the cost to build a full-on retail unit for a pro food brand. You’re not going to open a restaurant for less than half a million dollars, fast food for less than $1.5 to $2 million dollars.”
The celebrity halo is obvious for Reef as well, for many of the same reasons McDonald’s Corp. announced on Wednesday it’s partnering with Mariah Carey for the “Mariah Menu” in December.
“Reef lets creators share food experiences,” says Philips. “There hasn’t been a platform that allows creators in and outside the world of food to get to a lot of people at some sort of mass scale.” He envisions a world of instant gratification for people who are headed to a DJ Khaled show or just streaming “I’m the One” to satisfy their hunger—and fan impulses—wherever they may be.
As Khaled laid out via email: “We’re going to do it different. Not only do we deliver by land, but we will be delivering by sea, with jet ski’s offering boatside delivery. We’re doing everything new.”