In November 2020, Jimmy Donaldson (aka Mr. Beast) did a one-time pop-up launch for his burger franchise, Mr. Beast Burger.
Cars lined up for about 20 miles. Traffic was backed up.
The next month he opened over 300 more Mr. Beast Burger locations across the United States.
Here’s how Mr. Beast did it + the essential marketing lessons every restaurant marketer must know:
How does Mr. Beast Burger work, anyway?
Mr. Beast Burger is delivery only and operates out of existing kitchens that are underused.
In other words, it’s a burger dropshipping business:
- Orders come in online
- They get made by the nearest franchisee kitchen
- They get brought to the customer via third-party delivery
The know-how behind the operation comes from Virtual Dining Concepts (VDC) — a company that partners with celebrity brands, and leverages their audience to build profitable virtual brands that operate out of underused kitchens.
(VDC was founded by Planet Hollywood owner Richard Earl.)
Here are four slides that demonstrate how Mr. Beast Burger works:
How did Mr. Beast launch Mr. Beast Burger?
Here’s the Mr. Beast Burger launch strategy:
- Step 1: Partner with Virtual Dining Concepts for logistics
- Step 2: Pick a simple product that others could easily make
- Step 3: Look at Mr. Beast’s watch time by cities. Pick the cities that have the highest watch time.
- Step 4: Find a location to use as the launch site for the Mr. Beast Burger pop up (in this case a Burger Boy in Wilson, North Carolina)
- Step 5: Put up a billboard near the location advertising ‘FREE FOOD’ and $10,000 giveaways
- Step 6: Create a video that documents the one-day Mr. Beast Burger pop up (including cars lined up for 20 miles)
- Step 7: The video gets millions of views
- Step 8: Open more than 300 locations the following month
Now for the key marketing lessons we can take away from Mr. Beast Burger:
6 key marketing lessons from Mr. Beast Burger
Lesson 1: Build your own platform like your life depends on it
In 2015, Jimmy Donaldson scheduled a video called Dear Future Me to be published 6 months after he recorded it.
In the video, he publicly declares that his goal is to have at least 50,000 subscribers on YouTube (at the time he had 8,726 subscribers).
He was declaring what was important to him. And if something’s important to us, there’s a good chance it’s important to others — this creates resonance.
His only focus was building an audience — His own platform.
And today he can draw attention to just about anything to drive sales.
While the world-wide celebrity status that Mr. Beast has achieved is a tall order for most, what’s possible if you put a face and a personality behind your restaurant brand?
What if you shared real stuff that was important to you?
Do you think your audience would better connect with your brand?
Lesson 2: Create a magnetic reason for people to give you a try
One of the biggest reasons restaurant advertising fails is because there isn’t a magnetic offer attached to it.
Because restaurant marketers are too hung-up on making a profit on the one-time transaction instead of the long-term value of getting a guest.
“Break even today. Break the bank tomorrow.”Jay Abraham, Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got
Let me know if you can spot the difference between the weak offers versus the strong offers:
|Get 5% off when you spend $Xx.xx or more||Buy One Get One|
|Buy 2 burgers and 2 beers for $60.00||Free appetizer|
|Get a free dessert with purchases over $40||Free dessert|
The weak offers are a) conditional, and b) have weak value propositions. The strong offers are generous.
(Of course you can get more creative with your offers. But remember that simple works.)
And if Mr. Beast, a guy with 60M YouTube subscribers uses the power of free to launch a concept — you might want to consider using it in your marketing, too.
And before we go on, let me bust 2 myths about ‘free stuff’ I hear all the time:
“Giving stuff away for free will cheapen my brand”
Discounting can cheapen your brand. Giving stuff away for free is generous. And you don’t need to do it all the time.
Think about it: when a brand offers to give YOU something for free, have you ever found yourself thinking, “Pfft. That’s such a cheap brand!” ?
I know I haven’t. Usually my reaction’s more like, “hell yeah!”
“I won’t make any money by giving away free stuff”
This is a view that marketing and advertising is a one-time transaction (like a vending machine), instead of a long-term investment to build your audience of ‘1,000 true fans.’
Marketing and advertising compels folks to give you a try so that your brand and experience can do the heavy lifting of turning first-time guests into raving fans.
Lesson 3: Tap into an existing market’s desire
Mr. Beast Burger teaches us that it’s not our responsibility to come up with products that generate demand. It’s up to us to come up with products that tap into existing desire in a market.
This is subtle. But potent.
In his famous copywriting book, Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene Schwartz shares a subtle nuance that many marketers miss:
Let’s get to the heart of the matter. The power, the force, the overwhelming urge to own that makes advertising work, comes from the market itself, and not from the copy. Copy cannot create desire for a product. It can only take the hopes, dreams, fears and desires that already exists in the hearts of millions of people, and focus those already existing desires onto a particular product. This is the copywriter’s task: not to create this mass desire – but to channel and direct it.
Actually, it would be impossible for any one advertiser to spend enough money to actually create this mass desire. He can only exploit it. And he dies when he tries to run against it.Eugene Schwartz, Breakthrough Advertising
In the case of Mr. Beast Burger, he’s tapping into an existing market desire by connecting…
- The underused kitchen owner’s desire to get more money out of their space, and…
- The universal desire for burgers…
How is your restaurant tapping into an existing market desire? However you’re doing it, be sure to include it in your messaging again and again and again.
Lesson 4: Do what the data tells you to do
Mr. Beast used data to inform where he would open locations. He looked at his YouTube Analytics to see which cities had the highest watch time and engagement. And boom, Mr. Beast Burger locations opened in those locations.
Using data to inform decisions helps us avoid making decisions based on ‘gut feelings.’
(It’s no secret decisions made based on emotions can often lead us astray.)
A simple antidote is to regulate yourself with data.
Example: Do you get triggered by bad reviews? Obviously, you’re not alone. But if you aggregate the number of reviews you get and you notice that 100 are good and 5 are bad then the data will help you regulate your emotions — they’re just numbers, after all. If, on the other hand, you first look at the content of the review, it’s easy to become triggered. So start with data, root your decisions in data, then look for areas of improvement in the content of the review.
Do what the data tells you to do.
Lesson 5: Appeal to the innate human desire to give
In his Facebook Ads targeting kitchen owners, Mr. Beast hammers home the generosity of the Mr. Beast Burger concept:
- “And to be honest one of the biggest reasons I’m doing this is because I love to give back.”
- “For every burger we sell, we give a burger to someone in need.”
- “We’re also about to open our very own food bank.”
And one of the major reasons Mr. Beast fans adore him is because they get to live vicariously through him as he gives away hundreds of thousands of dollars in every video.
In his book Building a Story Brand, Donald Miller shares how we’re hardwired to be generous because it helps us survive:
Achieving an aspirational identity of being sacrificial actually helps us survive (fends off foes, decreases outside criticism, helps earn trust in our tribe, and so on), but it also taps into something truly redemptive: we want other people to survive to.Donald Miller, Building a Story Brand
Lesson 6: Tap into existing audiences using influencers
In the direct-to-consumer marketing world, leveraging the audience of influencers is a popular and effective tactic.
It’s hardly on the radar of restaurants.
(Which is an opportunity for you)
The simple truth is people buy from people they trust. One way you can fast-track trust is by getting the endorsement of influencers in your local area.
And they don’t need to have massive followings like Mr. Beast.
They just need to have an engaged audience.
Influencer marketing is outside the scope of this article, but get started forging relationships. A simple Google search for ‘[city name] food bloggers’ might be the start you need to get going. Offer a few who resonate with your brand a no-strings attached gift card, and see what happens.