The Pros & Cons of Creating Viral Food Items

Anyone who has ever visited a restaurant known for a specific “viral dish” knows the disaster they generally walk into. Insane lines, inconsiderate guests, and people standing in the way to take Instagram photos. This experience can really leave a bad taste in guests’ mouths and overwork your staff. This is where restaurant operators need to be especially careful. The guest experience and your staff’s basic needs mustn’t suffer in pursuit of viral popularity.

A lot goes into making a viral menu item. You need to design it, make sure it tastes good (let’s be honest, most of these viral foods are more about the looks), ensure it is very photogenic, and maybe include some sort of surprise element like a colorful ooze when you break it open.

An emotional and/or a nostalgic appeal always helps your cause. We all have fond and relatable childhood memories when it comes to food, so if you can play off of those it can only aid in your pursuit. Over-the-top is the name of the game here and, even if you tick all of the boxes, there are never any guarantees that any tactic will work. Luck plays an extremely large part in going viral.

After that’s perfected, you need to get the word out there. Many restaurants will invite social media influencers to come and try it. Some restaurants even pay influencers to post about it with the hopes that their followers will see and in turn stop in for a visit. Essentially you have to try to get the snowball-effect rolling which is what makes this all so difficult and unpredictable. Coming up with new menu item on its own is exhausting enough without trying to make it a viral hit.


What happens when the trend fades?

Restaurants’ viral foods and other trends are quickly forgotten and ridiculed, so it’s best to avoid any potentially embarrassing or off-brand items because of this. As soon as people are tired of seeing photos of it on Instagram they move on to the next one.

Trying to go viral doesn’t always work out for people the way they’d like it to. You might create a popular viral food but you also  run the risk of potentially alienating your regulars. Nothing worse than getting comfortable with a place then to have its’ vibe drastically change overnight.

In general, we recommend caution when trying to create a viral food item. Nothing will ever top a great traditional restaurant experience and that should be your real goal. Viral things come and go at the blink of an eye, and a restaurant that truly cares about its guests and the guest experience will always trump a viral places’ 15 minutes of fame. Aim for consistency over hitting the lottery. Would you rather a pizza and a side of tacos or a pizza covered in tacos? Well call us old-fashioned but we’d always go with the former