Anyone who has ever lived in, traveled to or read anything about Los Angeles knows that the city’s traffic patterns are nightmarish. Such a narrative becomes especially haunting for restaurants with a delivery component.
Fresh Brothers Pizza delivers from its dozen brick and mortar locations throughout the area – from Calabasas and Westlake Village to Newport Beach. When the brand first opened its Beverly Hills store, it launched a major marketing push in the Westwood area near the UCLA campus. There was one issue, however: The menu said Beverly Hills.
"People in that area would never think to order from Beverly Hills," Founder Adam Goldberg said. "There are too many traffic barriers. It’s the thought process by the consumer. They’re locked into ordering from their part of town only."
Westwood is approximately 4 miles from Beverly Hills and 1.5 miles from Brentwood. Despite such closeness, however, the company still wanted to tap into UCLA’s customers, but hit a proverbial (and literal) roadblock courtesy of LA's infamous freeway congestion – depending on the time of day, delivery could take anywhere from a half hour to 1.5 hours.
"There are major traffic patterns in LA between these two sites because you have to cross over the 405 and there is always construction and it’s slammed," Goldberg said.
The company initially looked at expanding into the Westwood area to feed the pizza-friendly college demographic, but balked because of the proximity of the two other stores, the ubiquity of other pizza concepts and the "extraordinarily high" rent.
Fresh Brothers studied traffic patterns in the two delivery zones and found that sometimes it was better and more efficient to deliver from the Beverly Hills store at certain times, and sometimes it was more efficient to order from the Brentwood store at certain times. The idea is to serve the Westwood area with delivery from either store, depending on the traffic patterns. By the switch of an IP address on the company’s end, Fresh Brothers can route its online ordering system between the stores based on the time of day.
"We came up with a different concept to serve the area, which is the virtual store," he said.
Customers in Westwood place their orders through a Westwood website or a Westwood phone number.
"Someone places an order and that orders goes to the Westwood store, but they don’t know which store it’s actually coming from," Goldberg said. "With this virtual store, we broke the consumers' thought process about ordering from another town. We knew if we called it Westwood, they would think they were ordering locally and that’s where the food was coming from."
Prior to the virtual store, Fresh Brothers simply wasn’t servicing Westwood because of the unpredictable commute times.
Benefits to the business
Goldberg said the idea not only benefits the customer, as it ensures a quicker delivery despite rush hour on the 405, but it also has been a boon to the company. It has saved about $400,000 to not have to open a physical store in Westwood, and has increased the two other stores' business by about 15 percent. Fresh Brothers hasn't added kitchen staff to make it work, just delivery drivers as needed.
"It has a great return. The concept is basically about using the four walls of our brick and mortar business and extending our delivery zone, but giving our customers the perception that it’s coming from down the street rather than a store in an adjoining town," Goldberg said.
The virtual store has been open for about a year. Goldeberg said the idea could easily be translated to other locations and cities.
"It allows us to expand into a new market without the hard costs investments. What we’re really doing is extending the delivery zone. It works perfectly for a delivery business," he said. "Consumers don’t care which store their food came from, as long as they get their food fresh."
Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.