According to Eater article, Dylan Lemay had worked at Cold Stone Creamery for eight years before he started posting on TikTok in early 2020, motivated by a friend’s goal of becoming “TikTok famous.” Through POV-style videos of himself decorating ice cream cakes and tossing balls of ice cream into the air, he became the platform’s top food and beverage creator by the end of 2021.
Lemay, who has 11.2 million TikTok followers and 4.1 million YouTube subscribers, took his work to the next level this year. The 26-year-old opened New York City’s Catch’N Ice Cream from Dylan Lemay in July, enabled in part by over $1.5 million in venture funding. There, he and his employees throw baseball-sized rounds of ice cream into customers’ cups; a score flipper behind the counter keeps track of the number of catches — and drops — per day.
In 2022, some of the year’s buzziest new food businesses came not from TV chefs or even conventional celebrities, but from the juggernauts of the creator economy: video stars whose names might not be recognizable to more-offline demographics, but who have wrangled as many followers as there are residents of New York City, if not mind-bogglingly more.
While not an opening exactly, the established New York City frozen yogurt chain 16 Handles got a leadership refresh in August, when it was sold to a group that included the YouTuber Danny Duncan (6.86 million subscribers). Weeks later, an estimated 10,000 people gathered at the American Dream mall in New Jersey — even lining up the night before, according to BuzzFeed — to try a burger from MrBeast, a stunt-focused YouTuber with 114 million subscribers. That physical location was the logical progression of the YouTuber’s existing delivery-only “ghost franchise” line. As the New York Times reported, this model lends his name and branding to restaurants in exchange for a cut of the sales.
Months later, the embattled YouTuber David Dobrik (28.1 million subscribers across three channels) opened Doughbrik’s Pizza in Los Angeles, to a clamoring crowd. “By the time Doughbrik’s had sold its inaugural slice, the line of eager customers spilled over multiple city blocks, snaking into the Hollywood Hills and disrupting traffic,” reported NBC News. And it certainly isn’t new for popular online creators to venture into offline food projects. The YouTube chef Sam Zien, known as Sam the Cooking Guy (3.44 million subscribers), got into the restaurant game in San Diego beginning in 2018, and in Los Angeles, a restaurant from vegan influencer Tabitha Brown (4.2 million Instagram followers) is currently in the works.