May 12, 2021

Innovating during the pandemic: Laser-focused launch of a virtual brand

The Tender Shack menu is concise and travels well: chicken tenders, fries, cookies, and drinks.

Launched last September, Tender Shack is Bloomin’ Brands first foray into the virtual brand space. It offers chicken tenders and tender sandwiches with signature sauces, fries, cookies, and drinks. “We founded Tender Shack on these ideas: keep the menu simple, perfect the recipe and production, and don’t overthink it,” says Tender Shack spokesperson, Kristy Jobe. 

What is Tender Shack and what was the inspiration behind the menu? 

It’s a Bloomin’ Brands offspring, bringing our favorite off-menu creations straight to our communities. We hand-bread our tenders, serve a selection of sauces, and kill the shortcuts. You can’t find a Tender Shack on a map. It’s not a real place, but the menu proposition—delicious hand-breaded tenders—is a big draw. 

When did Tender Shack start? How many locations do you have?

Tender Shack dropped its first order of tenders in September of 2020 as a test out of the kitchen of a Carrabba’s Italian Grill in south Tampa. It has now expanded to 750 communities nationwide with the help of DoorDash. 

How are customers responding to the format and menu?  

People love tenders, so we cut to the chase by offering just that and very little more. The simplicity of our menu makes for easy and fast ordering through the DoorDash app with only one tough decision to make: “Dang Good Seasoned” or “Hot AF” (As Fire) finishes. Taking the early pulse, our food is appealing to younger consumers and those looking to indulge. We can see orders mirror these groups’ typical purchasing behaviors with strong snack and late-night daypart sales.

Why was Tender Shack launched during the pandemic?

The launch was more about meeting the demands of the changing landscape to deliver an exceptional experience to guests in the convenience of their homes. We wanted to bring more menu options to our communities in a very targeted way. Our talented chefs and restaurant operators were eager to meet consumer needs to explore additional sales opportunities and test out delivery options. They adopted the virtual brand in a matter of weeks. We couldn’t have done it without them.