It’s 4 p.m. and the sun is already setting. I’m sitting in my car, like a TV cop during a stakeout, at the main entrance of the Piedmont Farmers Market in Colfax. I’m waiting on a black Ford Flex with Luis behind the wheel. After waiting over an hour, the man finally arrives. I jump out of the car and accept delivery of a large brown paper bag festooned with a “MrBeast” branded sticker. After a silent, masked greeting, Luis ambles away and I re-enter the warmth of my car to unpack my MrBeast feast. The melting font of brand’s logo echoes the feelings in my heart as I unwrap each item. I begin to immediately regret my decision.
In my neverending search to experience every food trend I can, I’ve learned that not all that is on Twitter is bold.
MrBeast is a YouTuber known for his extravagant, over-the-top stunt videos with titles like “I Put 1,000,000 Christmas Lights on a House,” and “I Uber’d People and Let Them Keep The Car” along with massive cash giveaways, often with a charity angle. With an impressive following of more than 50 million subscribers, MrBeast, aka 22-year-old Jimmy Donaldson, has a built-in audience primed for any publicity stunt he can put together. And Beast Burger is his latest scheme.
In late December, the Greenville native opened 300 virtual or “ghost kitchens” in existing restaurant spaces across the United States.
Ghost kitchens refer to when a restaurant leases a commercial kitchen for delivery-only products. Other similar concepts include dark kitchens which are commercial facilities built to produce food specifically for delivery and virtual restaurants or cloud kitchens which exist exclusively in the cloud and thus have no physical storefront, food truck or pick-up location. Some chain restaurants partner with ghost kitchen start-up companies which provide training, recipes and a national supply chain for consistency of product. Each concept includes branded packaging, marketing and social media support so existing restaurants only have to focus on food production.
MrBeast Burger has no physical address, no dining room, parking lot or any other trappings of a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Menu items are available for delivery only, accessed solely through third-party delivery apps such as Doordash, Uber Eats, Grubhub or a specially branded MrBeast app.
According to its website, MrBeast Burger “is available for restaurants to prepare out of their existing kitchens as a way to generate a new revenue stream — the menu is accessed only via apps, and it is delivered directly to your door. MrBeast is one of many celebrities who have jumped on the virtual kitchen bandwagon. Mario Lopez of Saved By The Bell fame, rapper Tyga and chanteuse Mariah Carey all have virtual culinary concepts in different markets across the country. All have partnered with an Orlando-based company aptly named Virtual Dining Concepts.
The closest operational MrBeast Burger virtual kitchen location in the Triad is in Greensboro. The physical address listed on each app is the same address for Bravo! Italian Kitchen in Friendly Shopping Center. The menu consists of burgers named after MrBeast’s friends who appear in his videos — Karl, Chandler and Chris: chicken tender sandwiches, a grilled cheese on an inverted hamburger bun, seasoned French fries and MrBeast Burger branded merchandise. The offerings are as flamboyant as the producer’s videos.
Since I don’t live in Greensboro or anywhere near Guilford County, I came up with a jerry-rigged plan to accept delivery of my MrBeast meal: put in the address of the Triad’s largest farmer’s market as a safe, well-lit place close enough to Greensboro that it wouldn’t take too long to drive to, and deceptive enough to fool any delivery service. The tactic reminds me of when I used to put my across-the-street neighbor’s address into the Pizza Hut app to get delivery when my street was one centimeter outside of the local delivery radius on a map.
Ordering on the app was easy. Delivery was to take 60 minutes, more than enough time to trek across the county line from Forsyth. I ordered the popular Beast-style burger combo that is supposed come with two smashed, crispy beef patties with house seasoning, American cheese, pickles, diced white onion, mayonnaise, ketchup and brown mustard on a soft roll. Sides include seasoned and unseasoned fries or an upgrade to Beast-style fries which echo West Coast chain In-N-Out’s animal-style fries and come with caramelized onions, slices of American cheese, pickles, mayo, ketchup and brown mustard. The seasoning on the fries is a blend of salt, garlic, spicy red pepper, sugar and lime. The Nashville hot-chicken tender sandwich comes with mayo, ketchup, shredded lettuce and pickles.
The presentation of everything was close enough to resemble what was advertised on the app, but far enough away to question how I was sucked into the hype. The burger was palatable, although stone cold by the time it reached my car’s dashboard. The thick-sliced pickles were the best part of the double-patty sandwich. The entire thing reminded me of a homemade Big Mac, with no seasoning and no shredded lettuce getting in the way of each bite. The only thing hot about the Nashville hot chicken sandwich was the lukewarm temperature of the foil-wrapped parcel. The seasoning seemed to be forgotten but upon closer look, the top of the bun had a faint impression of orange grease that could have been hot sauce in a past life. The Beast-style fries weren’t half bad and did arrive as advertised with the exception of the caramelized onions, which were as pale and as raw as when they were diced in the kitchen.
Would I order this or any other food item from MrBeast again? Absolutely not. Would I encourage others? Absolutely.
It was an exercise in combining virtual reality with tangible items and a real-world experience. The experience of obtaining limited edition items and connecting with the MrBeast brand were the most important parts. I got the same rush as when I attend a one-night only beer or wine dinner at a local restaurant.
Ghost kitchens are a great concept for restaurateurs to sell food to customers in order to keep the doors open without the fun part of having to drum up customers. It may be less personal, but capitalism is king. As for the end-user product, there leaves much to be desired. Online reviews across all of the delivery apps are mixed with one-star evaluations complaining about cold food, inaccurate orders and long wait times to five stars boasting that the food was “great!”. If something goes wrong, diners have to sort out the issue through the delivery app and hope for the best. While the marketing concept is genius, we shall have to see if the faceless ghost kitchen concept solidifies.
Want to try? Find the MrBeast ghost kitchen on a food delivery app and take your chances.