Fired Pie has joined the ranks of local restaurants with their own ghost kitchen.
The fast-casual pizza concept launched a ghost kitchen out of two of its locations, both of which are located in Scottsdale: at Fashion Square and at Northsight.
But the ghost kitchens won’t be serving pizza.
They will be used by Chicago-based Asian street food concept Wow Bao, which serves steamed bao as well as potstickers, steamed dumplings, rice and noodle bowls, and more.
“The quality of this product is amazing,” says Fred Morgan, co-founder of Fired Pie.
“At Fired Pie, we offer our guests the highest-quality ingredients possible, and Wow Bao’s menu aligned with our mission to continue to do that,” co-owner Doug Doyle adds.
Wow Bao’s signature item, its bao, is a soft, fluffy dough filled with savory or sweet flavors and steamed to perfection.
There are four flavors from which to choose, including whole wheat vegetable, barbecue Berkshire pork, teriyaki chicken and spicy Mongolian beef.
Since Fired Pie brought on the fast Asian concept, customers have raved about the BBQ pork baos and the chicken dumplings.
“The rice bowls are also starting to take off, and the Kung Pao chicken is the most popular,” Morgan says.
Morgan calls customers’ response to Wow Bao “amazing” — so much so it nearly sold out of all of its Wow Bao products the weekend of March 20.
“It has been better than we had projected, with little advertisement or promotions,” he adds.
Thus, the biggest challenge since the launch of Wow Bao in the Valley has been keeping up with demand and keeping the kitchens stocked with enough product.
“The other issue we had early on was the delivery drivers trying to find Wow Bao, not understanding they needed to pick it up inside of Fired Pie,” Morgan says.
Morgan and Doyle searched for seven months for the perfect concept for their ghost kitchen.
They initially gave a Grubhub-created concept called Tyga Bites a shot, but it didn’t work out because it was only available to Grubhub customers.
“We then started doing a lot of research on ghost and virtual kitchens and found out Wow Bao was operating as a ghost kitchen,” Morgan explains. “As soon as I received more information from them, I knew this was the one for us.”
“Our customers have been turning to online ordering, takeout and third-party delivery during the pandemic, so we felt this was the perfect time to launch our ghost kitchen,” Doyle adds.
Wow Bao was founded in 2003, but it wasn’t until last spring that it launched a pioneering business model to increase restaurant partner’s revenue while also expanding the company’s footprint throughout the U.S.
As part of its business model, restaurant partners, like Fired Pie, serve Wow Bao staples while third-party delivery providers, like Postmates, DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub, deliver the goods.
Since launching the partner kitchen program in April, Wow Bao will reach 1,000 locations by the end of this year — up from 150 locations in January and only six at the beginning of 2020.
“We didn’t conceive this for the pandemic, but as soon as it started, we realized these partner kitchens were perfect for the critical situation restaurants are facing right now and will face for some time,” says Wow Bao CEO Geoff Alexander.
“This is a lifeline that quite literally can mean the difference between profitability and extinction to restaurants.”
Any restaurant can join the Wow Bao program for less than $1,000; and according to Wow Bao, most partners have been surpassing the expected sales mark of $2,500 or more in six weeks.
“I like the idea that this is an established brand, many people know it, and they have a loyal customer base,” Morgan says, adding that it was a “no-brainer” to partner with Wow Bao.
“We are excited to align ourselves with a concept that has seen explosive new growth in the past year,” Morgan continues. “As the ghost restaurant trend continues to grow, we expect to continue to add virtual concepts to our local storefronts.”
Currently, Wow Bao operates out of two Fired Pie locations in Scottsdale, but Fired Pie has plans to add Wow Bao to 12 more locations within the next three months — four of which are slated to launch within the next 30 days.
They include Fired Pie’s SanTan Village store; its Tempe store; the Ahwatukee location; and its Phoenix location on 19th Avenue and Northern Avenue, Fired Pie’s newest concept.
Unlike other Fired Pie locations, the 19th Avenue and Northern store is a fast-casual rapid online and carryout location, meaning it specifically caters to those on the go.
“Carryout and delivery stores are in demand, especially those with customizable options, and we have something for everyone, including gluten-free, vegan and plant-based options,” Morgan says. “We’ve chosen a great location for this store, where our customers can easily have their meal made fresh in under 10 minutes.”
In addition to increasing the number of Wow Bao kitchens in the Valley, Fired Pie also has plans to expand its Wow Bao menu.
“We have a new bao coming out in a few weeks: a cheeseburger,” Morgan teases.
To order Wow Bao, visit wowbao.com or order directly on the Postmates, DoorDash, Uber Eats or Grubhub apps.