A celebrity YouTuber is bringing his burgers to Winnipeg — just don’t expect to see the storefronts any time soon.
MrBeast Burger, a line by American YouTube star MrBeast (or Jimmy Donaldson), is setting up shop in Fast Fired by Carbone restaurants. The food will only be available via DoorDash.
Carbone Restaurant Group is using its kitchen spaces as ghost kitchens — meaning, chefs will also cook for brands that exist solely online. The pizza place’s staff will grill MrBeast burgers, to be picked up and delivered by DoorDash employees.
"This is only the beginning," said Benjamin Nasberg, Carbone Restaurant Group’s founder and CEO.
Nasberg contacted MrBeast Burger in February. The 23-year-old YouTuber has elicited more than 100 million views on some of his videos, including being buried alive and giving away thousands of dollars. He’s known for philanthropy.
And, now, the face of a burgeoning burger chain that has no storefronts.
Donaldson launched his business in 300 locations on Dec. 19; that number has spiked past 1,000. The food is only available through an app.
"(Ghost kitchens) are definitely here to stay," Nasberg said. "It’s saving restaurants in the economic downturn."
It’s also providing hungry customers more options, he said.
Since launching the partnership with MrBeast two weeks ago, Carbone has seen a doubling of pandemic-era sales. The Winnipeg-based company receives one third of the cash paid for MrBeast’s beef and vegetarian burgers.
Prices range, but a burger is typically around $9, Nasberg said.
Winnipeggers ordering MrBeast burgers must be in delivery range of Fast Fired by Carbone restaurants. But, 15 partner restaurants will begin grilling the patties in the near future, expanding the reach, Nasberg said.
"The pandemic definitely helped light a fire under the ghost kitchen industry that was already existing," he said. "There’s no turning back now."
Nasberg is diving headfirst into ghost kitchen entrepreneurship.
Carbone Restaurant Group has brands of its own only available through delivery, including Plantza, a vegetarian pizza company. It’s launching Seon’s Kitchen, a plant-based Korean line with celebrity chef Seonkyoung Longest, and Good Pup Co., which sees chefs making high-end dog food.
Nasberg plans to launch Good Pup Co. in 300 restaurants across North America. He’s in the process of signing 100 operational kitchens in Canada and the United States to make Carbone products.
"We see this continuing to grow for many years to come," Nasberg said, adding he’s open to partnering with any restaurants in Winnipeg.
Ghost kitchens are "very attractive" to those in the food industry, especially after the blows taken during the pandemic, according to Sylvain Charlebois, the director of Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab.
"Whether the sector likes it or not, it’s going through a reset," Charlebois said.
An estimated 20,000 to 25,000 restaurants shuttered during the pandemic, he said. Ghost kitchens provide cost savings: companies don’t have to pay for front of house staff, they don’t need to cover egregious rents for ideal locations, and they have flexibility.
"You can actually have a chef cook sushi right next to a chef preparing a pizza, and you’re not compromising a brand," Charlebois said.
Ghost kitchens provide guaranteed revenue regardless of lockdown status.
He guesses more than 100 ghost kitchens operate across Canada.
"It’s always hard to know for sure because they really operate in obscurity," he said.
Winnipeg is a key market because locals love to order online, he said. And, ghost kitchens provide guaranteed revenue regardless of lockdown status.
The concept also addresses the industry’s labour shortage: owners needn’t hire so many staff and can pay their cooks more, Charlebois said.
"For the pricing (of meals), I don’t think that people will actually see a difference," he said.
The one con he could muster was for folks who enjoy watching their food made — that isn’t happening with a ghost kitchen.
Carbone Restaurant Group plans to open ghost kitchens at its Brandon and Regina locales in the coming weeks.
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.