You know the virtual restaurant movement is catching on when a famous YouTuber gets involved and their efforts are a massive overnight success. This week, Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson, teamed up with a company called Virtual Dining Concepts and launched a virtual restaurant brand called MrBeast Burgers. The restaurant is already serving 300 locations across the U.S., according to a press release sent to The Spoon and a very excited tweet from Donaldson from the weekend:
Donaldson is a YouTuber who is as famous at this point for his large charitable donations and other philanthropy as he is for his online stunts. He unveiled MrBeast Burgers over the weekend via his own YouTube channel and a one-day pop-up event in Wilson, North Carolina, where he gave free food to, well, thousands, it seems, along with some iPads, cash, and a new car.
Those interested can get the delivery-only menu via the MrBeast app and on the major third-party delivery platforms. Virtual Dining Concepts said in this week’s press release that it worked with Donaldson’s team to create the menu, which includes burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries, and other quick-service staples.
Restaurants can add the MrBeast menu to their existing operations and essentially run the restaurant out of their own kitchen. The concept isn’t brand new. Wow Bao and others have been running similar “dark kitchen” businesses for some time. However, the MrBeast brand’s popularity may push the concept into the mainstream, given the practically overnight popularity of the initiative.
As to the quality of the actual food, the initial response is a patchwork at best. My very unscientific glance at some recent tweets turned up everything from complaints about the high prices and uncooked meat to high praise and overseas followers begging for international locations.
Even so, the whole thing is another piece of evidence that branding is critical for virtual restaurants to be a success. We talked about that at length a couple weeks ago at our ghost kitchen event (you can view the sessions here), with the majority of restaurant industry panelists agreeing that it’s much easier to start a virtual restaurant operation when you have an existing platform and recognition. Otherwise you’re just the random dude who wants to sell chicken wings but can’t stand out from the masses of folks trying to do the same thing.
Jimmy Donaldson is not a chef, but nor is he a random dude, as his nearly 49 million YouTube following can attest. But overnight success and longevity are two distinctly different things. The big takeaway here for anyone wanting to launch a virtual restaurant is that the food, customer service, speed, and efficiency matter more than ever in today’s to-go focused restaurant industry. Fifty million fans is one thing. Fifty million fans that love you because of your food is an entirely different, and more difficult, feat to pull off.