DALLAS – Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is franchising virtual kitchens. The fast-casual barbecue chain has area development agreements to establish virtual kitchens in Houston, Chicago, Orlando, Fla. and Providence, R.I.

Dickey’s investment in virtual kitchens is part of the company’s strategy to expand delivery service without the investment in brick-and-mortar restaurants.

“Virtual kitchens are a unique franchising opportunity that gives us a new and innovative way to capitalize on consumer trends at a low cost,” said Laura Rea Dickey, chief executive officer of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants Inc. “Delivery is a rapidly growing channel in our industry right now, and we believe it will continue to be a preference for guests post-pandemic.”

Virtual kitchens are designed to handle food preparation, holding and delivery. In terms of equipment, a Dickey’s facility requires only a smoker and a warming cabinet, the company said. The brand can employ a limited number of team members, and a location can begin serving barbecue in one month.