While everyone may not know who #SaltBae is, at least 10 million of us do. That’s right, late Monday night, the Turkish grill master hit an Instagram benchmark that puts him on par with Hollywood royalty in terms of web following and digital clout. Rather than champagne popping, he christened the achievement by butchering a lamb on the Gram (ha) to sizzling perfection. With his acclaimed salt pinch, Nusret Gökçe can now emphatically enter a food coma knowing that his culinary footprint is concrete and that he’ll be ever able to charge a whopping $275 for a tomahawk steak. It’s another keynote example of the ability to charge premium prices, for premium product, with premium demand. What’s even more impressive is how well branded he is, as it takes an unimaginable amount of recognition to trademark a white T and black shades; minimalist garb that also made Salt Bae the most popular DIY Halloween costume this year. In today’s day and age, a nine figure follow count isn’t to be misconstrued or taken at face value. His cult audience is the size of Sweden, so if we barred vegans, it wouldn’t be a long shot to assume that there are 10,000,000 empty stomachs that would purloin the opportunity to slate a rezzy for front row tickets to the greatest cooking show in recent memory…sorry Guy Fieri.
While this metric is massive, a focal part of Salt Baes plot line is that he didn’t exactly reinvent the comestible wheel. While his skill set is mastered, it was the marketable gimmick that gave Nusr Et his 15 minutes of fame. The salt pinch is more in line with purple hair on a SoundCloud rapper and expletives on Bar Stool podcasts than the tact of an Iron Chef. Of the million Wonka Bar’s, his flair for the dramatic was a golden ticket, but at the end of the day he is a restaurateur with clients to honor. Without brick and mortar mediums to deliver his digitized content, he’d be 6 feet under with the rest of the viral video graveyard. So now more than ever, Salt Bae must do his job and feed the following to stay afloat. To that accord, he has since propagated his first-born Istanbul locale, inking big-money retail deals in the US markets of Miami and NYC, slowly but surely creating supply to reach his exorbitantly impossible demand. This marks his transition from the start-up to the grow-up stage, a movement that Crunchbase would call, expansion. He now promenades his signature table side chop shows across the globe, jet-setting oceans as he panders to fulfill his food orders. So far, his expansion seems to be feasibly viable, but Business 101 interprets the model as unsustainable…just draw the supply/demand X chart. Massive demand and low supply creates high prices, but the offering must live up to the consumers expectations to warrant the premium. With the absence of a dish under $80 bones, the inflation he charges is only remedied by the added value of witnessing the bits you’ve been streaming for months now, so the novelty will soon be lost when Nusret is in Miami, while you’re booked for NYC. If I’m not watching Himalayan sea salt cascade off of Bae’s elbow, then I’ll take half the money to Lugers and sleep happy. Salt Bae is the demand, not the food. See what I’m getting at?
You ever feel like not enough butter spread over too much bread? Well expansion is a quip of office jargon with a duality so severe, that growth has actually been the downfall of countless entities since coin was traded for meat. During Toyotas growth stage, they shifted their priorities from quality to volume. Their manufacturing facilities couldn’t meet demand and so they reduced their coveted safety standards, which resulted in massive recalls in 2012. 7.43M Corollas to be exact. While video killed the radio star, Netflix didn’t necessitate the demise of Blockbuster. As the competition took to DVD mailing, Blockbuster was flat footed due to their gargantuan size, and forfeited to their inability to implement systems for all 6,500 stores. One more? Sure. Remember when everyone had a Motorola Razr? The crown jewel of mobile phones was served its death sentence with the advent of smart phones. Motorola was solely focused on their low-cost production, so Apple and LG were unencumbered by the void Motorola had left open for the taking. Aaaaaaand, it’s gone. In the food industry, the consequence for over ambition is even more brutal. A hair in the soup at a local diner is minutia compared to an E. Coli epidemic induced by Chipotle’s innocuous supply chain management. If the burrito franchise hadn’t captivated the glutton of the people, Chapter 7 would have been filed months ago. The microscope we hold to fast food is perhaps the most indiscriminate, as iPhone cinematographers literally go Room Raider style into the kitchen looking for a roach or ungloved fry cook to launch a Burger King smear campaign. Purveyors of food truly operate on a one strike and you’re out basis. Being that Nusr Et epitomizes a snap-happy dining experience, he must be particularly wary of the camera.
Of course, Nusr Et isn’t your run of the mill burger joint, and the foreplay he puts your steak through mandates a hand to food encounter. While I’m not doubting his sanitation and hygiene, his routine is tantamount to horror film gore. He flamboyantly sharpens his instruments, hacks your meat to bits, wipes blood on white hand towels, and encrusts his finger nails with gravy. Then he puts his sans-latex arm around you as you pose for a picture. Truly X-rated in the terms of cuisine and unheard of for restaurant chains. But, Instagram. One of the niceties of social media is the trust and admiration consumers award, even under the scrutiny of the public eye. Long story short, we don’t let just anyone molest our food like this, and that’s the beauty (and selling point) of it all. The surcharge of a tenderloin parlays into the experience one receives, which can only be mediated by the Bae himself, rather than the personas non grata he calls the waitstaff. So while his business is water proof today, it gets a bit precarious when it’s a stranger tilting your head back with serrated steel inches from your throat. But, when it comes to food, most importantly meat, we go primal. Salt Bae hit the nail on the head by displaying the butchering process to virgin eyes which gave him the inertia of 10M. Acting against him though, is our ever-increasing particulars for food preparation and handling, so as he grows and delegates work to his employees, he’ll continue to tighten his own noose. This type of opposition in consumer behavior and product delivery is what will leave you empty handed on shark tank.
The 10,000,000 customers will take their business elsewhere the farther Nusret moves from his own product. It’s quite the conundrum, as I can’t be only person who will pay the premium, if and only if I am being served by THE Salt Bae. Essentially, it’s Nusret himself, or bust. With his growth and expansion, schedule and logistics will make him absent from your dining experience more often than not. He has curated a primal meal that conveys the reality of food prep, as dining used to be. Remember, not so long ago we were chasing buffalos with sticks for a meal and that’s the type of shit that will stay with a species for millennia. If the palm-to-meat delivery will only be acceptable in the presence of Bae, he’s going to have to make his next series of massive action with chess-like strategy. In my best Batman voice, we must now ask “what happens when an immovable object hits an unstoppable force.” When the blood thirsty, predatory eating habits of 10 million mouths hits the sensitivity that is the modern-day pallet. Keep expanding? Or stay niche? While we still don’t have that answer, I’m sure we’re all rooting for Nusret to solve the Rubix cube and luckily, he seems poised to do so. The 10M and his longevity in the meta is a testament to our fascination with the 6-pack donning swordsman that makes our mouths water like animals we once were. There’s just something about red meat and human instinct, so for now, let’s just enjoy the hunt.