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Going Viral

How restaurants and agencies are working together to achieve Cronut-level fame

Saturday and Sunday mornings at Juniper Bar in New York City were slow — too slow for the restaurant’s director of events, Alyssa Aiola. To lure more weekend clients, she introduced a new brunch lineup featuring over-the-top dishes like the Heart Attack Stack, a mountain of bacon-cheddar hash browns, fried chicken, a waffle, smoked ham, and a fried egg, all stacked like a Jenga tower; and red velvet waffles stuffed with a maple syrup-infused mascarpone, which is also served on the side in a piping bag. Suddenly, brunch at Juniper was a hit.

“We’d gone from not getting any reservations on Saturday and Sunday [mornings] to having a full sheet,” Aiola says.

But the success of Juniper’s buzzworthy new brunch was no coincidence. Behind the scenes, social media marketing expert and professional Instagrammer Jared Zuckerman masterminded the menu’s popularity from its conception. If Zuckerman, a former bakery owner, isn’t traveling about Europe or frequenting New York’s hottest restaurants to snap food pics for his own 112,000 Instagram followers, he may very well be helping restaurants build their own followings. As a hired gun, he boasts that every dish he’s created and marketed for a client has been a hit.

“I actually don't know if any dish that I created has not gone viral,” Zuckerman says. He goes on to name examples, including the Drunken Cookie and Mac N Cheese Burger he developed for NYC’s the Bedford, and items for other clients whose identities Eater won’t disclose, due to the nature of Zuckerman’s contracts with them.

Thanks to social networks like Instagram and Twitter, orchestrating “viral” moments — that is, helping companies earn a sudden influx of followers and engagement — has become big business. Many former pastry chefs, photographers, and (sometimes) students and part-timers have managed to crack the code of viral, attracting clients willing to pay to become the next Instagram hit. Today, plenty of restaurateurs are seeing the manufacturing and farming of virality as a necessary weapon in competitive dining markets like New York City and Los Angeles.

This left Eater with one burning question: Given what’s at their disposal, how do restaurants really go viral? In pursuit of the answer, we learned why some things go viral and others don’t, and how restaurants can hack social science to boost their viral odds. We met the players, movers, and shakers behind the drinks, dinners, and desserts taking Instagram by storm, and the companies and businesspeople cashing in on their social media expertise.

And while there are many examples of dishes going viral by chance, experts on the subject tell us success still boils down to several key components — including things as simple as taking the right photograph or tracking the right metrics. So how, exactly, are restaurants making food go viral? Navigate through this guide to explore the world of viral food. Start by selecting a chapter below:

CHAPTERS

The Theory of Viral

Understanding the shifting definition of “viral”

The Business of Viral

Meet the agencies, marketing professionals, and influencers hired by restaurants trying to go viral

The Probability of Viral

Lessons learned from the innovators who went viral by chance

The Data of Viral

Tracking buzz with metrics and visualizations — aka the importance of good data in viral campaigns

The Art of Viral

How to craft the perfect viral image

The Experiment

Armed with what we know, could Eater go viral?

The Theory of Viral

Going viral is sometimes a matter of understanding what virality is and how it works, then hacking the process. What does “viral” really mean? The concept dates back to the mid-1970s, when evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins developed the idea of “memes” — the phenomenon by which ideas can spread and evolve from person to person, much like the way a gene replicates. By the mid-1980s and ’90s, memetics, the study of the spread of information, became a popular subject area, with several works in the field comparing memes to viruses. Over time, we came to describe memes as “viral.”

Today, however, there is less emphasis on how a meme spreads and more placed on how fast it spreads. As journalist Derek Thompson, author of Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction, has told Forbes: “‘Going viral’ used to mean something very specific. It meant that a product, idea, or disease spread through many generations of intimate sharing. But somewhere along the way, it [became] colloquial for ‘that thing got big really quickly,’ and I’m not sure how.”

To make things more complicated, there is no widely accepted threshold for how fast something has to be accepted, or by how many people, in order for it to be considered viral. “There’s no definition,” says Jonah Berger, a marketing professor who practically wrote the book on going viral. “There’s no one metric that decides if something is viral versus not.” In other words, virality has become one of those things people just know when they see it. (For the purposes of this deep dive, we’re choosing to define an item’s “virality” by a rapid spike in popularity either in sales, foot traffic, online buzz, or media coverage.)

Despite the evolving definition, there’s ample research exploring how things like memes spread rapidly and spike in popularity. The research touches multiple fields, from computer science and psychology to marketing and communications. While the science of virality is robust, understanding what viral really looks like can be a powerful tool for restaurants.

Theory in Action

Most studies on virality center on the significance of networks. A study in Scientific Reports in 2012 showed that memes spread through a “cascade” of information, also known as a diffusion network. In a typical network of people, individuals (or “nodes”) have relationships (or “links”) with other individuals. These relationships can be one-one (for example, Kim Kardashian to her husband Kanye West) or one to many (Kim Kardashian to her siblings). Influencers are people connected to hordes of other people (Kim Kardashian to her fans; media outlets to their audiences). Get one of these people to share an idea and thousands, sometimes millions, of people are suddenly exposed to it.

Illustration of how things go viral in networks (Julia Kuo)

The larger the influencer’s network of followers, the better. A 2012 study by Yahoo! researchers suggested that most people adopt viral ideas within one degree from the original source, challenging the notion that “viral” things spread from multiple sources like a virus. Instead, the spread depends on “broadcasters,” or influencers, pushing the information to many people at once.

But restaurants trying to hit it big on social media can’t depend solely on influencers to get the word out. Other studies have shown that in order to become viral, ideas have to be persuasive enough to convince the average potential sharer that their followers — those in their one-to-one or one-to-many networks — will be open to it.

One global study found that people are hesitant to share content if they don’t think the idea can drum up support or produce validation from their network of followers. Research from UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania supported a similar notion, using MRIs to show the phenomenon neurally. In closer-relationship network links, those doing the sharing often want or hope the idea they’re sharing will ultimately reflect favorably on themselves or their tastes. Only once an idea breaks this initial barrier can its popularity truly explode.

In other words, to go viral, restaurants have to make their food appealing not only to influencers, but to others in the influencers’ one-to-one or one-to-many networks; validation among other networks might in turn influence the influencers to share.

Berger describes this desire to look cutting-edge — within reason — as “social currency,” which is the first of his six “STEPPS” to making things go viral. But in his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, he challenges assertions that going viral depends primarily on influencers and argues that the actual content does most of the work.

CASE STUDY: How one restaurant went viral

“Contagious content is like that — so inherently viral that it spreads regardless of who is doing the talking,” he writes. “Regardless of whether the messengers are really persuasive or not and regardless of whether they have ten friends or 10,000.”

In addition to producing social currency, Berger showed that things that go viral tend to have a trigger (such as Rebecca Black’s “Friday” music video, which Berger’s research showed spiked in YouTube views every Friday), evoke emotion (a theory also supported by several other studies), are publicly ubiquitous, have practical value, and are contextualized with strong narratives. “We've done a lot of research that shows that things that have those characteristics tend to be highly shared,” he says.

One thing most studies agree on is that ultimately, a viral idea has to inherently have value; without it, no influencer, broadcaster, or trigger can be of much help. For restaurants, this means the food has to taste good and be well made, in addition to simply looking good on Instagram.

Still, restaurants can use information about how viral messages spread to hack both the medium and the message. And as long as it’s the trendy thing to do, marketers and Instagram influencers like Zuckerman are charging these businesses top dollar to do it.

The Business of Viral

There were several flavors of croissants on the menu at Union Fare Bakery in New York City, but the “Birthday Cake Croissant,” loaded with a sweet pink ooze and Funfetti, was the one that ultimately drew long lines. The success took a month or two, but that’s when executive chef (and former Food Network Star finalist) Yvan Lemoine knew that his relationship with local creative agency Front of House had paid off.

“We reached out to them at the beginning [of the bakery] so we could really start spreading the gospel of Union Fare,” Lemoine says. “I think it’s worth every penny.”

New York City’s Front of House is a creative marketing agency that specializes in developing social media content for restaurants, including recipe development, Instagrammable photos, and exclusive events designed to get their clients’ names out there on social networks. Food photographer and restaurant marketer Dillon Burke teamed up with partner Adam Fulton to create the business in 2016.

“In the beginning, [our clients were] restaurants that were already open and looking to make a shift,” Burke says. “It’s now changed a bit, and people are coming to us earlier — prior to opening — and saying, ‘Hey, where do I put this?’ ‘Hey, how do I do this?’ ‘What's gonna give me that Instagrammable moment?’”

It’s a modern-day take on some of the concepts Burke’s father, chef and restaurateur David Burke, incorporated into his own whimsical creations. According to Burke, restaurants want to know where they should put a pineapple, what types of cocktails they should serve, and what recipe elements would look the best. For some clients, the goal is to go viral, or at least make an impression on social media: Front of House’s well-maintained network of young influencers, and its ability to tap into that network quickly, was one reason Union Fare reached out to the agency.

“They read to a younger audience and they read to a lot more millennials,” Lemoine says, adding that the result is an “explosive” response from the group. “[Front of House] really builds that demand, and then they reach out to the right people. And that takes off.”

CASE STUDY: Inside the agency helping restaurants go viral

This budding segment of social media marketing is disrupting the ways restaurants traditionally promote themselves. “Whereas the New York Times used to be the epicenter of all things food review,” Burke says, “now websites have popped up and influencers have popped up and the guarded entry of content creation has become much more easygoing.”

Part of Front of House’s job is keeping the influencers with whom it builds relationships happy, often by offering them everything from special access to the restaurant’s best tables for taking photos. “The way we've created these relationships with influencers is that we were early to the game and we were always: ‘Hey, how do we improve this?’” Burke says.

Scott Nghiem, who opened Afters Ice Cream parlors in California with his partner Andy Nguyen in 2014, noticed the growing demand for these kinds of middlemen. When the chain’s Milky Bun ice cream sandwich went viral, restaurant owners started probing Nghiem for his secrets.

“So many people were approaching us asking, ‘How did you guys do this? Is there a specific thing I could do to increase my chances of becoming viral?’” Nghiem says. So he started Squad Goals in 2016 with other entrepreneurs who have gone viral, including Jed Cartojano, co-owner of California-based The Loop: Handcrafted Churros. Their list of clients has included Mr. Holmes Bakehouse — the purveyors of the viral cruffin (half croissant, half muffin), for which Squad Goals has organized multiple openings and social posts.

But is paying for a chance to go viral “cheating?” Chefs like Lemoine contend that hiring professionals gives restaurants a competitive edge, and is therefore becoming industry standard. “It's part of doing business in New York City,” Lemoine says. “In today's day and age, you have to be able to reach the audiences that you need to survive. We have to use the tools that we have at our disposal.”

The trend is a quiet takeover. Many of these marketing agencies keep a low profile, and are generally discoverable by word of mouth. Websites for Squad Goals and Zuckerman’s Food and City are still in development, yet their creators boast strong client bases. Not surprisingly, the agencies also declined to disclose the financial terms behind any of their arrangements. But it isn’t stopping them from maintaining their robust personal network of influencers, which is arguably the secret sauce to their businesses.

The rise of influencers

Influencers are known for having an above-average number of followers on social media platforms like Instagram. Instagram started in 2010 as a mobile app allowing users to instantly share pictures and videos; it’s become one of the leading social apps, with more than 800 million monthly users. Not surprisingly, it’s also the weapon of choice for restaurant lovers dying to share their culinary adventures with their friends. With Instagrammability at the core of many social media marketing services, one of the most important steps to making things go viral is getting those things in front of the right Instagram influencers.

Gavin Booth and Karen Reinsberg, a couple from Austin, Texas, have a steady revenue stream thanks to their Instagram account and blog. They started using Instagram as a hobby, but after amassing thousands of followers, they suddenly found themselves in high demand.

“The next thing we knew we were getting invited to a lot of opportunities to dine at new restaurants or great restaurants,” Reinsberg says. Though most of their Instagram posts are ordinary snapshots of their lives — sent to 32,000 followers — sometimes they accept payments to promote products or restaurants, or receive in-kind compensations, like a free meal.

“Any time we’re paid for content, which is mainly our recipes, you’ll see #ad or #sponsored. Any time we’re paid, we’re very clear about that,” Reinsberg says, adding that they notice many influencers don’t divulge this information.

Those who don’t disclose are breaking the law. Responding to the increase in sponsored posts on Instagram, the Federal Trade Commission recently targeted Instagram influencers with information about how the law requires them to abide by endorsement guidelines, including “conspicuously disclosing their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing products through social media.” Instagrammers are thus required to reveal their sponsors using hashtags and links. “The FTC rules are really clear,” Booth says. “We’re not about going against FTC rules.”

CASE STUDY: A day in the life of an influencer

Doing so could not only hurt credibility, but put a dent in the lucrative business. Most influencers are tight-lipped about the exact amount they’re paid for a post, often due to contract agreements. But several sources speaking on background confirm they can make anywhere from $50 to $1,500 in cash for each Instagram post. Larger companies and chains pay even more.

“I don’t know if we can share an exact number,” Reinsberg says, “but I will tell you it pays our mortgage every month.”

Influencers are in such high demand that a growing middle market of agencies pitch them to clients. Booth and Reinsberg are members of Foodie Tribe, an influencer agency that focuses specifically on connecting brands — including national chains like Red Lobster and McDonald’s — with food influencers.

Katy Coffield started the company in 2015 and claims a base of more than 1,000 influencers whom she selected personally. She says corporate and restaurant clients aren’t always looking to go viral, but instead turn to influencers — whose audiences are members of targeted demographics — as an extension to bigger marketing campaigns. The companies decide how they may compensate the influencers (either with a comped meal, discount, samples, cash, or nothing at all). The influencers, in turn, decide whether to try the product. Coffield says more and more influencers are realizing the value in their posts and are expecting companies to offer them money.

“Once you get [an influencer with] over 20,000 followers, they're gonna start charging [companies] for the content because they know their worth,” Coffield says. “There are some clients that understand the influencer world and totally agree with the fact they’ll need to pay, say, $200 to $300 for a post. Then there are other people that don’t, so it really depends on the client.” For her part, Coffield charges the brands for access to the right influencers for the brands’ campaigns. The more influencers they want to reach, the more she can earn.

The Probability of Viral

William Werner’s Rebel Within is the star item at Craftsman and Wolves in San Francisco. The savory muffin with an oozy soft-boiled egg hidden inside was popular when Werner debuted it at a local farmers market, but once an improved version graced the Craftsman and Wolves menu, it went viral. Elyse Richman’s ice cream shop Shock Ice Cream had been open in the Hamptons for more than 15 years before she garnished her soft serve cones with pillows of glittery cotton candy, creating an instant craze. And when Darren Wong’s Raindrop Cake debuted at the Smorgasburg food fair in Brooklyn, Wong, who has no professional cooking background, didn’t anticipate the crystal-clear Japanese agar jelly would take Facebook and YouTube by storm, or that he’d end up quitting his advertising job to sell DIY Raindrop kits.

They each say their ideas were their own, and that they hired no consultants or agencies to help develop them. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t learn a ton of tips about going viral in the process:

PREVNEXT

Q&A: William Werner

creator of the Rebel Within

Eater/Patricia Chang

Why do you think the Rebel Within resonated so well?

It’s very unassuming when it’s whole and hasn’t been cut. Even in our display cases it just kind of looks like a muffin, an odd muffin even. But it’s that surprise, and I think people really love surprise and the suspense: “I’m going to cut into it and there’s something inside.”

What role do you think Instagram played in its popularity?

Oh, that’s huge… you can just see: [Guests] walk in the door, and because it’s such an unassuming product when it’s not cut, they’re like, “Do you have any of those Rebel, that thing with the egg in it?” and there are three right in front of them. And it’s because it’s something they saw on Instagram, or they saw on Facebook, or saw their friend had it, tweeted about it.

How have you tried to maintain or recreate the success?

To keep the excitement we looked at what people are looking for with it. That’s morphed into people wanting a vegetarian version. We created the Kimchi Rebel that has no sausage... we only do that one day a week, so that’s giving people some excitement to go and try something they’ve never had before.

Q&A: Elyse Richman

creator of the Carnival Cone

Photo courtesy of Elyse Richman

What is the story behind Carnival Cone?

I had a cotton candy machine in my store for 16 years: We put it away in the back room, and never even sold cotton candy. Then I took it and put it next to the soft serve machine; and it was just sitting there for a couple of days. I made the cotton candy, and I put it with the soft serve. And we took a picture.

When did it go viral?

I put it on my Instagram, and a food blogger saw it and came in; she took a picture of it. I didn’t know she was a food blogger [at first], but I knew when she came, and said, “What flavor looks better?” Not, “What flavor tastes better?” I made her a cone, and she went outside and took a picture. She put it on her Instagram, and she got like 10,000 views. One of the people that saw it was from Insider... and she came in the next day and took a video. That was Sunday. On Monday, she put it on Facebook. And we had a million views the first day.

Why do you think it took off?

It was different, it was colorful, it was Instagrammable. People wanted to share it. When they came into the store, they were excited. It’s not your same old ice cream cone.

How do you think Instagram is shaping the food scene?

You can’t just go out to dinner with your friends without taking pictures. Right? Because you want it photographed; you want it shared… that’s how it’s driving traffic. You don’t need to take out an ad, necessarily, in a magazine, because you might get more people seeing your picture on Instagram, worldwide.

Q&A: Darren Wong

creator of the Raindrop Cake

Photo courtesy of Darren Wong

Where did you get the idea for the Raindrop Cake?

I’ve been in advertising for 10 to 13 years, and I had reached this point where I thought I wasn’t really creating or sharing things… that led me to going home and working on making things, to get some sort of fulfillment. This project was a result of that. I really started making it about three years ago. It was something I saw in Japan: a jelly dessert made out of agar. And it also has roots in my childhood. Agar jelly desserts were desserts that I grew up with. My mom used to make them.

Why did it go viral?

I think it was just something different. I think a big factor in virality is that it’s something people haven’t seen before. [In those cases], there’s a natural inclination to show somebody else. It’s like, “Hey, look at this thing!” And the Raindrop Cake, in terms of the way it looks, doesn’t look like any other dessert that people have really seen before.

When did you know it was a success?

I will attribute Facebook’s role to the success more so than Instagram... I look back and can say that had I not started this event post on Facebook [with] the high-quality pictures I had the foresight to pay for and take, I don't think I would’ve been noticed by the media. People saw that Facebook event [with] pictures of the Raindrop Cake, and it became something to do. They shared with their friends — “Hey, you’ve got to check this out at Smorgasburg this weekend” — and shared four or five or six thousand times. It becomes a snowball effect.

How has the Raindrop Cake evolved?

The fact that I do have a consistent place present at Smorgasburg, with the natural lifespan of the buzz and the attention, I think I have a runway of about one or two years… I quit my job because of Raindrop Cakes; I’m in year two of the business. I get a lot of fulfillment: I’m able to start my own business, become my own boss, and make my own decisions, good or bad. If I fail, it’ll be a failure [based] on my own decisions. I’d much rather have that than success that was due to somebody else.

The Data of Viral

With the right guidance, going viral can be a straightforward task. Yet without the right analytics, staying viral can become a challenge. But in these digital times, data is practically everywhere. Companies in all fields, from the public sector to retail, are culling insights from internet users to make all kinds of business decisions. In the world of viral food, social media marketing agencies like Front of House are no exception.

“It’s all about the transparency with the client, saying, ‘Listen, we got you 100 followers. It’s not as great as last month when we got you 1,000, but here's why,’” says Front of House’s Dillon Burke, describing a hypothetical client. “‘Next month we’re changing x, y, and z to make sure that we get you closer to that thousand.’”

New York Instagram influencer and owner of the marketing agency Food and City Jared Zuckerman says data plays a crucial role in his company’s services. He often uses data to inform more traditional-sounding marketing strategies, like honing in on audiences and researching what will entice them and what won’t. “It's [about] targeting the right people — the right audience for that specific restaurant — and then getting them in, tracking that, and being able to quantify the objective — and to see if we're meeting that objective.”

Instagram offers business accounts data insights, including how many users have seen, liked, or commented on posts. Both Zuckerman and Burke share these analytics with their clients. “The numbers speak for themselves,” says Alyssa Aiola, director of events at Juniper in New York City, who hired Zuckerman to develop the restaurant’s brunch menu. “The proof is in the pudding; you can’t skew those.”

But hiring an expert isn’t always necessary. With the right data, resturants can visualize viral trends themselves. Google, the leading online search engine, for instance, cultivates and mines search data from users and offers it free to the public under the Google Trends brand. Foursquare, a location intelligence company with apps used for finding restaurants and attractions, also uses data from its users to form insights about interests and trends.

Eater reached out to Google Trends and Foursquare to take a deeper look at some recent viral food trends. The results, placed on a map, show where viral ideas begin, how they spread, where they resonate most, and how long they last. Using Trends data, Eater looked at search interest for “Cronuts” (arguably the first viral food), “sushi donuts,” and “taiyaki ice cream,” then mapped the level of search interest in each U.S. state. The darker the state, the higher the interest.

The data can be used to pinpoint pivots and hotspots during viral trends. Search interest for sushi donuts, for instance, appeared around early summer 2016, primarily in New York and California: That’s when an Instagram post showing a sushi roll in the shape of a doughnut garnered some online attention. But it wasn’t until eight months later, when an Insider video on California-based Project Poke’s version of the dish appeared, that search interest took off.

Meanwhile, user activity from location-discovery companies like Foursquare can also highlight hotspots for viral food. Foursquare shared exclusive data showing user mentions for two of 2017’s hottest food trends: rainbow and unicorn foods.

The Art of Viral

The team at New York City’s Front of House works with restaurant and hospitality clients to help them explode on Instagram. With a rapidly growing chunk of social media marketing in the restaurant space, having the perfect image on Instagram is key to going viral. Below, Front of House co-founder Dillon Burke, who’s also a professional photographer, shares his top five tips for making food photos go viral:

Dillon Burke's top five tips for taking a viral photo

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The Experiment

Viral isn’t always what it seems. Sometimes it’s contrived, directed, or even bought. With the right amount of tools, knowledge, and help, restaurants can try to fast-track their journeys to Insta-fame. It’s certainly doable, but is developing a viral idea easy?

Eater wanted to know if implementing everything learned about going viral could produce a viral-worthy dish, and if so, how easy (or difficult) the process would be. From the interviews with the chefs, social media experts, and influencers mentioned in this piece, seven qualities stood out:

A team of volunteer Eater staffers gathered to brainstorm what the “ultimate” viral item would be — something that hit every above category. After some initial ideas, including a mirror-like “selfie cake,” failed, the dragon egg was born: an egg-shaped chocolate mold filled with vanilla frosting, crumbled Oreo cookies, gummy bears, and brownies and covered with a shimmery glaze.

The Dragon Egg: The sparkly, chocolate egg filled with ice cream and candy.

Here’s why the Dragon Egg has the potential to go viral:

Things that go viral tend to be colorful or have an interesting shade. Elyse Richman, owner of Shock Ice Cream in the Hamptons, says she thinks that’s why her Carnival Cone became so popular. And of course there is the Rainbow Bagel from the Bagel Store in Brooklyn. The glittery glaze used to coat the chocolate egg is sparkly and shiny, in theory making the treat colorful and photogenic.

Many viral foods, from Craftsman and Wolves’ Rebel Within to Union Fare’s exploding cupcake, have an element of surprise. As it is generally understood that most eggs have something inside of them, a chocolate egg, by its very shape, implies something is hidden within.

When it comes to emotions, marketing expert Jonah Berger’s research showed that positive emotions, particularly joy, have a better impact on people than other emotions. It is no wonder, then, that sprinkles, candy unicorn horns, and ice cream — food items that trigger memories of fun or happiness — go viral. Another positive feeling frequently triggered by viral items is nostalgia. To appeal to this emotion, Eater filled the chocolate egg with gummy bears and Oreos, childhood favorites that also appeal to relatable experiences (afterschool snacks).

The next step was to make the egg gluttonous, and the hidden filling was an opportunity to do this. Eater placed a brownie in the bottom half of the egg, while two tablespoons of vanilla frosting or ice cream, mixed with crumbled Oreos and gummy bears, went in the top half. On top of it all, the idea is a bit absurd (an unofficial category for viral food).

The final result is a pre-historic yet magical-looking egg thing with a sweet, crunchy, gooey inside. And in the vein of mermaid drinks and unicorn toppings, “Dragon Egg” seems to be a suitable and catchy name.

Even though the Dragon Egg exploits every emotion to which viral treats tend to appeal, creating it was only half the battle. If the item were a real product (it’s not), the second part of this project would be marketing the dish and hopefully winning some Instagram buzz. This is where the bulk of Berger’s STEPPS and the manipulation of networks, data, and photography come into play. The Dragon Egg may be a bit ridiculous, but that’s sometimes the point. In an Instagram-driven era of restaurant marketing, the real challenge is getting customers to think it’s not too absurd — or just absurd enough — to share it with their networks, all in all an unpredictable and daunting process. That could be the reason why some restaurants turn to the professionals.

CREDITS

Reporter and engineer

Vince Dixon

Video producer and writer

Ellie Kirn

Shooter and editor

Ian Stroud

Photographer

Matty Kim

Illustrator

Julia Kuo

Art director

Brittany Holloway-Brown

Editor

Erin DeJesus

Special thanks

Emma Alpern, Monica Burton, Patty Diez, Esra Erol, Maureen Giannone Fitzgerald, Daniela Galarza, Dan Geneen, Clifford Endo Gulibert, Mary Hough, Steven Leon, Dawn Mobley, Stephen Pelletteri, Nancy Seay, Jenny Zhang, The Bagel Store, Dominique Ansel Bakery, The Sushi Donut Shop, Union Fare, Vinnie's Pizzeria

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