Real estate brings virtual brands to life, says Sam Nazarian of C3 at FODC


On the opening day of the Food on Demand Conference, Sam Nazarian, CEO of global food tech platform C3, said that one of its goals is to have a complete ecosystem that makes it easy to communicate directly with customers.

C3 has hundreds of “digital branded kitchens”, over 40 virtual brands, a digital ordering app and, since this morning, a joint venture with actress Sofia Vergara’s Latin World Entertainment to add digital culinary brands as components of its global food tech platform to develop . But, as CEO Sam Nazarian noted in today’s opening session at the Food On Demand Conference in Las Vegas, physical real estate is also an integral part of the company’s growth plans.

Speaking to FOD editor Tom Kaiser about real estate, Nazarian pointed out that C3 included shopping mall giants Simon Property Group and Brookfield Asset Management among its early investors. “They are becoming fulfillment centers and real customer acquisition tools,” said Nazarian of the grocery halls and mixed-use retail centers where C3 is present, combining a dining experience with ghost kitchens.

“I think real estate definitely plays a very important role in bringing brands to life,” said Nazarian.

And despite the emptying of downtown office buildings during the pandemic, he labeled central business districts “irreplaceable” in the ecosystem of developing a customer base and relationship that practically lives on after experiencing a C3 brand like Umami Burger, Krispy Rice, or Sa. ‘Moto by Masaharu Morimoto. Just last month, C3 opened its 40,000-square-foot Citizens Food Hall in Manhattan West, a mixed-use development of Brookfield in New York City. And this week, the Food Hall Citizens MiamiCentral opened in Miami’s redesigned Brightline train station.

C3 is also working to convert customers who have had a personal experience with one of its grocery brands into a user of its Citizens Go app, which hosts C3’s network of ghost kitchens, eateries, and eateries.

“Talking face to face with your customers is critical,” said Nazarian of creating an entire ecosystem within C3.

Corporate and franchise restaurant deals are another opportunity for C3, Nazarian said, as the company’s partnership with TGI Fridays announced last month. TGI Fridays is rolling out the C3 virtual brand Krispy Rice in select restaurants and expects to open digital kitchens in 170 of its company-owned stores in the United States, which will serve more brands.

“We’ll be attending all Fridays in the second quarter of next year,” said Nazarian. Not only will the move lead to more sales to the restaurants, he added, but it will “also change the discussions Fridays has with franchisees,” which would allow them to license C3’s other brands.

The Food On Demand Conference, which is presented by Food On Demand, Franchise Times and the Restaurant Finance Monitor and covers the interface between food, technology and mobility, will last until Friday noon at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Follow the coverage of the conference here.

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