The startup behind MrBeast Burger sees a huge opportunity in influencer ‘ghost kitchens’ and plans to expand the brand to 1,000 restaurants

MrBeast at the MrBeast Burger

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When YouTube star Jimmy Donaldson (MrBeast) posted a video about opening a burger joint in December, it seemed like just another stunt to drive video views. 

The 22-year-old creator, known for spending lavishly on subscriber challenges and cash giveaways, created a pop-up “MrBeast Burger” restaurant. He filmed himself handing out free food, piles of cash, iPads, and a car.

But at the end of the post, Donaldson announced that MrBeast Burger was going national.

Fans could order MrBeast burgers, fries, and grilled cheese sandwiches from 300 restaurants across much of the US. Donaldson partnered with Virtual Dining Concepts, a company that works with celebrities to launch delivery-only food brands, for the venture.

“The minute the video came out we opened and we were beyond slammed and ill-prepared for his incredible following and demand that ensued,” Virtual Dining Concepts CEO Robert Earl said. “It was beyond any expectation anywhere.”

Virtual Dining Concepts helped the MrBeast team design a menu, secure restaurant partners, and create training materials so every product would taste the same nationwide. The company enlisted a network of 300 “ghost kitchens” (some that it owned), which paid an all-inclusive platform fee to cook and sell MrBeast menu items. Many of these partner restaurants saw a sales lift from the new source of demand. 

“You’re using your existing kitchen labor force,” Earl said. “You’re using your existing rent and your utilities. So it’s extremely additive and profitable for the restaurant.”

Earl, 69, has worked in the restaurant industry for decades. In addition to running Virtual Dining Concepts, he currently serves as chairman of Planet Hollywood and previously was CEO at Hard Rock Café.

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He said his team views MrBeast Burger as a permanent brand, not a one-off stunt. The company is planning to expand to 1,000 restaurants by the end of the second quarter. It recently launched in Canada. And it’s inspired copy-cats. YouTube creator Elijah Daniel launched his own delivery only ghost-kitchen concept, Gay Burger, earlier this month.

Enlisting internet stars to promote food products has been on the rise in recent months.

TikTok star Charli D’Amelio launched a drink with Dunkin’ called “The Charli” in September. The company sold hundreds of thousands of “The Charli” in the first five days of its launch, telling Insider that it contributed to a US sales increase in the third quarter of 2020. And YouTuber David Dobrik said he’s planning to roll out a brick-and-mortar pizza restaurant in the next year.

Experts told Insider that as the popularity of digital creators rises, we’ll see more influencer-branded food items on store shelves. 

“Who is popular and who is famous really has shifted to things like TikTok [and] YouTube,” said David Henkes, a senior principal at the foodservice consultant and research firm Technomic. “I don’t think the idea of celebrity endorsements or partnerships is in any way new. Who they’re going after and maybe how they’re doing it is different.”

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Source:: Businessinsider – Tech


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