Portland News

How Cosmic Wings Thrived With the Online-Only Delivery Business Model

A few of the Cosmic Wing's menu products
A few of the Cosmic Wing's menu products

Cosmic Wings – The online world is an ever-expanding space that allows people to explore new venues across different industries. 

Entrepreneurs have been able to explore online and found massive success; they aren’t alone. 

Major brands have also utilized the online space to help expand their brand. Among the brands that have made the best use of the online world is Applebees.

Early last year, Applebee’s launched something that had never been seen before – Cheeto-flavored wings. 

The uniquely flavored wings are only available through Cosmic Wings, a “ghost kitchen” that quickly launched 1,300 locations nationwide.

Cosmic Wings

Cosmic Wings is the product of a collaboration between Dine Brands, Uber Eats, and Frito-Lay.

It is an online-only delivery operation limited to chicken wings, tenders, cheese bits, fries, and soft drinks.

Although Cosmic Wings operates out of the 1,300 Applebee’s locations, it will not have its own restaurants.

Applebee’s experimented with a similar concept called “Neighborhood Wings by Applebee’s.”

“[Neighborhood Wings] was our first foray into a virtual-only menu,” said VP of strategy and development for Applebee’s, Scott Gladstone. “We learned a lot. One of the big learnings was that we had to offer something exclusive and popular.”

Behind the Development of Cosmic Wings

Like many casual dining chains, Applebee’s suffered when the pandemic struck in 2020.

Due to the troubles the company faced, Applebee’s started experimenting with virtual brands, hoping to boost sales and utilize kitchens with more people seeking deliveries.

Applebee’s sales from the chains open fell 13% in the third quarter of 2020.

The Menu

Cosmic Wings offers wings with two exclusive Cheetos sauces – original and Flamin’ Hot. They also offer fan-favorite side dishes like cheese bites, waffle fries, and onion rings.

“Fans of Cheetos have been 58% more likely to cook at home during the pandemic,” Jessica Spaulding, senior marketing director of Frito-Lay North America, explained. “And a DIY recipe we’ve seen a lot is Cheeto dust on chicken wings.”

PepsiCo, the parent company of Cheetos, collaborated with Applebee’s to develop the recipe for Cheetos wings together.

The concept for Cheeto-flavor wings had been conceptualized before the pandemic, but it was only in 2021 that the company was able to launch Cosmic Wings.

Opinions expressed by Portland News contributors are their own.