Popular social media company TikTok found a new way to monetize viral content on its platform: virtual restaurants. The company is partnering with Virtual Dining Concepts to launch 300 “TikTok Kitchen” by March 2022, with plans to open 1,000 locations by the end of the year.
Virtual Dining Concepts is no stranger to celebrity-backed restaurant brands. The company supports virtual restaurant concepts from popular YouTuber MrBeast, singer Mariah Carey and Dave Portnoy’s Barstool Sports. This will be VDC’s first venture with a platform, and not stars on a platform, although a press release indicates that creator stories will feature prominently in marketing and on the menu.
As with VDC’s other concepts, TikTok Kitchen will be a virtual restaurant brand, with orders prepared by restaurant partners and orders placed online, typically through a third-party delivery app. The initial menu will include baked feta pasta, a smashburger, corn ribs and pasta chips, and per a press release, the menu will be updated quarterly “so the brand remains fresh and relevant.”
According to reporting from BuzzFeed, TikTok offered popular creator Tabitha Brown $5,000 for permission to use “a version” of her pesto eggs recipe for TikTok Kitchen. Brown does not claim to have created the recipe.
Culinary videos on TikTok, known collectively as foodtok, have garnered hundreds of millions of views on the platform. Per Vogue, the baked feta pasta trend started on TikTok in early 2021. The magazine reported that feta sales on Instacart shot up 117 percent with other ingredients such as basil and cherry tomatoes close behind.
With that in mind, it’s hard not to see the opportunity in selling TikTok-inspired foods, but the company has been clear that TikTok Kitchen is more about marketing than establishing a new business line. TikTok spokesperson Elena Saavedra told The Verge “[TikTok Kitchen] is a campaign to bring TikTok food to fans, not a venture into the restaurant business.”