Around 18 months since launching its first site in Bethnal Green, Twisted London is ready to expand its reach. The recipe video company turned delivery-only restaurant has used the intervening year and a half to streamline the menu, identifying exactly what consumers want as part of their Twisted experience.
“When we first launched we had quite a large menu and a spread of items, because we wanted to find what worked,” explains Rob Warren, Twisted’s head of marketing. “We had burgers on there, we had grilled cheese toasties, we had lots of different types of chicken wings. We found that the burgers were what people really loved, so we stripped in back to quite a classic American grill offering.
“What’s exciting about now is that we’re in a place with operations where we can start to build on that again.”
A pared-down menu of Twisted’s hero dishes will inaugurate the five new delivery areas, which include Bayswater, Gloucester Road, Russell Square, Piccadilly and Edgware Road. These locations were chosen in collaboration with Uber Eats, who have helped map demand.
The best-selling Money Shot burger, consisting of a 6oz chuck and brisket beef patty with panko-crumbed Emmental cheese, smoked cheese sauce and chilli jam inside a brioche bun, is of course available among the reduced options, as is the KFV vegan chicken burger with vegan cheese, vegan mayonnaise and vegan bun.
While the brand wanted to make things simple and clear at the start – rolling out five sites at once can be challenging, after all – the plan is to gradually expand the offering, keeping consistency across the touch points.
The original location has recently added High Steaks Frites (bavette steak with rosemary salted fries) and Korean Fried Chicken to the mix – just don’t expect lots of grain bowls and green leaves anytime soon.
“There was a period last summer where we experimented with a few healthier options, a couple of salads and things like that,” recalls Warren. “We realised quite quickly that people weren’t coming to us for that, they want to come to us for their treats.
“We do have a salad still on the menu and we’re looking at ways that we can add a few lighter options – using grilled chicken instead of fried in a couple of new burgers, more vegan options that use different meat substitutes – but ultimately we know that we’re about joy and fun and excitement and an experience.”
Plant-based, however, is an important part of the strategy. Around a third of sales at the original Bethnal Green site were for vegan dishes, and Twisted sees this market as a big opportunity. As such, it’s exploring a range of meat substitutes. Seitan is already made in house, and the team is exploring companies like Beyond Meat as well as new chicken substitutes.
“We’ve not made any firm commitments with any of them as yet, we’re still in development, but that’s the sort of thing we’re looking at,” adds Warren.
Twisted London began as a content creator specialising in outrageously decadent recipe videos.
In some ways the restaurant has a unique model, since it is built off an existing business – one that has 20m social media followers.
“We have that in-house content team that produces mouth-watering content which other brands don’t compete with,” notes Warren. “Our social following is a lot larger than most of our competitors.”
Social media still influences what goes into the delivery side of the business – flavours and mash-ups that do well online inspire the commercial food development team – but there is a separate chef squad working on the dark kitchens, as different considerations go into delivery compared to video production. The giant food in some of the online clips, for example, would probably topple a delivery bike.
Target areas for NPD include world flavours as well as plant-based. Building on burgers, which have proven sales clout for Twisted, there are also a number of new patty options coming soon that will provide “exciting twists on classics.”
Twisted is also looking at moving beyond the core brand to create other virtual concepts that deliver different kinds of food.
“We have a pizza brand in the works at the minute that is not going to sit under the Twisted brand name,” says Warren. “We think that’s quite an exciting way to go into other areas of food, so that we can diversify that offering, but it would be the same kind of social commerce model.
“As a long-term growth strategy, we think it’s going to be quite good to have these very specific brands that people go to for different types of food.”
Without a bricks-and-mortar location, he says it can be difficult to develop brand advocacy, since there’s no décor to help create the ambiance.
“I think delivery brands will have to focus on more than just getting food to people hot, they need to add that layer of experience as well,” he adds.
As part of that, Twisted are exploring the possibility of creating a loyalty scheme in the future, and they already include gifts from brand partners with some orders.
According to Warren, the mission is “unforgettable food experiences, delivered.” That encompasses not just keeping the classic delivery concern of keeping the food hot, but also making sure it comes in sustainable wrapping.
“We’re using quite high-tech packaging, which is biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, because we know our consumers want that,” says Warren.
He recommends recycling the packaging at home as you would card or paper. It can also be put on the compost heap, though it will take longer to breakdown than, say, a banana peel.
The Chuck Boris and Demon Vings may soon be moving beyond the confines of London. Twisted launched a temporary test kitchen in Leeds last year as part of a pilot programme. Following its success, the site has been closed as the brand prepares for a bigger roll out, targeting major cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. The plans are in motion, according to Warren.
“Hopefully within another two or three months we’ll have some regional kitchens out there in the UK,” he adds.
Warren was worried that Twisted might struggle outside the UK capital – at his previous job working for Sipsmith, he was made keenly aware that a London brand backstory doesn’t always play well regionally. Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case for Twisted.
“That’s perhaps one of the beauties of the social commerce model, in that we’ve built a community first around this brand and around the love of food and this type of food,” he says. “We can be more confident that once we’re available to them they will order, and order in a similar way.”
In fact, the test kitchen in Leeds showed that eating patterns in the city were very similar to those in London, with no real difference in the desired size of the portions or the demand for plant-based options.
“I always talk about our consumer as someone who would very happily queue for an hour and a half to get a bao bun at a pop-up that they’d heard about, but they probably wouldn’t go to a generic Italian chain,” says Warren. “They want their convenience, but they also want their experience.”