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A Beastly business

By: Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Virtual restaurants and delivery-only concepts have been on the rise since the pandemic. Among the standout success stories is the young American Jimmy Donaldson and his Mr Beast’s Burgers operation.

When Jimmy Donaldson, also known as Mr Beast, launched his food brand it was in a customary bold and attention-grabbing style. Not only did he and his team promise free food to customers but those who turned up to the North Carolina drive-thru were also handed bundles Dollar bills with their food order.
At the time of writing the video documenting the launch day, called ‘I Opened A Restaurant That Pays You To Eat At It’, had been viewed close to 117 million times.
The stunt meant that a 20-mile queue formed as thousands of people wanting to try the food descended on the restaurant – taken over by Donaldson and his team for the day in what turned out to be a masterstroke of a marketing exercise.


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Ein Beitrag geteilt von MrBeast Burger (@mrbeastburger)

And this groundbreaking success, as it now turns out, was not an isolated incident:

The first real store of Mr Beast Burger has now opened in the American Dream Mall in New Jersey. And as you would expect, more than 10,000 people were already on hand shortly before the official opening. Impressive – even for Jimmy Donaldson, who writes to his followers on Twitter: ” I feel pretty good about serving all you but anyone else coming idk maybe come tomorrow/later tonight haha”

Virtual kitchen partnerships

The young entrepreneur found fame on YouTube with his channel featuring films of daredevil stunts and amazing acts of generosity – last year he progressed his brand with the launch of Mr Beast’s Burgers, which he launched in partnership with Virtual Dining Concepts.
He started his YouTube career under the name MrBeast6000 when he was 13 years old and has accumulated 84.6 million subscribers to his channel. Now aged 23, Donaldson, was among the highest paid YouTube stars of 2020.
In December 2020 he took the brand to the next level by opening 300 virtual kitchens to start delivering MrBeast Burger to; that number has since grown to 600+ locations in the US, Canada and the UK.


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Ein Beitrag geteilt von MrBeast Burger (@mrbeastburger)

Mr Beast’s Burgers speaks to a bigger trend of making smart use of resources as Virtual Dining Concepts has done Putting spare kitchen capacity to good use while restaurants stood empty and working with virtual operators, on a commission basis, has helped some kitchens while providing good business.

By way of comparison, according to business strategy company Strategyzer, it took McDonald’s six years to open 300 locations.

 Temporarily closed restaurants are perfect for virtual kitchens.

Image: AdobeStock | Семен Саливанчук

Mr Beast’s Burgers speak to a wider trend in the foodservice sector, which has seen a rise in virtual concepts in the restaurant market now due to the growth in and popularity of smart phones and the increased ease and use of apps in our daily lifestyle, especially by younger generations. “The tremendous growth has been fueled by the digital technology evolution and compounded by the extended pandemic now having reach two years. This phenomenon has created a ‘Try Me’ impulse buy, with customers seeking easy solutions and increased convenience,” says William Bender FCSI, founder and principal of W. H. Bender & Associates.

The enormous development of digital technology inspires virtual and real gastronomy

Image: AdobeStock | WrightStudio

The numbers of the Beast

The rapid rise of Donaldson has been remarkable as he found a way to connect with the people following YouTube stars while earning his money through brand deals. The first of his videos that went viral showed him counting to 100,000 in 2017 – by November that year he reached 1 million subscribers and a year later, in December 2018, he had given out $1m through his stunts, gifting people money and presents. He has managed to build a brand that is as charitable as it is profitable and has also launched an additional YouTube channel called Beast Philanthropy where his stated intention is to feed as many people as possible.
For example, recently for Thanksgiving he and his team fed 10,000 families in need.

Food distribution to the needy - with a charity campaign, MrBeast has provided food to over 10,000 needy families.

Image: AdobeStock | kuarmungadd

Other examples of his videos include one that saw him recreating every single game from the wildly popular Netflix series Squid Game – 456 real people took part in the game, which saw the winner walk away with $456,000.

He has donated millions of Dollars to good causes, including food banks while the delivery only kitchens have kept busy the thousands of kitchen staff who were left without work due to Covid restrictions. The workers who would otherwise have sat idle prepared Mr Beast’s Burgers and using third-party delivery companies such as UberEats and DoorDash.


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Ein Beitrag geteilt von MrBeast Burger (@mrbeastburger)

Virtual brands vs. brick-and-mortar restaurants

Donaldson’s success is likely linked to his particular brand of personality and approach to filing his videos. According to Bender, there are common traits shared by many of the founders and creators of these virtual brands.
“They are bold, outspoken personalities driving sales of and for partners, franchisees and unit growth,” he says. “What they say, how they say it, and the brand personality of a written Strategic Marketing Plan, will be critical for their long-term success.

Young people eating together - Virtual restaurants are on the rise, but will never be able to replace traditional ones.

Image: AdobeStock | Studio Romantic

But, he adds, personalities will only be able to gain attention in the short-term. “Only Total Quality Management will keep a customer returning to a business,” he says. “As evidenced by a review of online posts, MrBeast Burger has serious work needed at this time to improve operational performance.”
It is true it has not all been plain sailing for the young entrepreneur. Reports of bad treatment of staff were revealed by The New York Times earlier this year and the reviews of the burger are far from universally positive, instead revealing a lack of consistency – one Donaldson has been forthcoming in responding to, acknowledging that the operation is far from perfect. But it is fun, you might add. Regardless of the current success enjoyed by virtual brands, Bender doubts that they will provide genuine competition to brick-and-mortar restaurants in the longer term.
Physical locations offer “hospitality, community, and the experiences of human existence – being social. That is the missing ingredient of virtual concepts in my opinion,” he says.
“They do offer convenience, but that will not be enough if a quality product is not delivered.  There will be some successes in the short term, but let’s review in 3-5 years,” he concludes.

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