The $5,000 Burger

Have you ever heard about a ridiculously expensive cocktail or vacation package and thought, “Who in their right mind would buy that? More money than brains if you ask me!” 

Well, I have the answer for you: No one. No one is buying it. It was never designed to be purchased. It was created for PR and PR only. Those little sneaks!  

I used to work for a major hospitality group with literally hundreds of restaurants and a stable of celebrity chefs all vying for as much press as they could get. One, rather enterprising French chef, came up with an idea for a $5,000 burger and let me tell you, it was a gift sent down from PR heaven. Just google $5,000 burger and you’ll find pages of stories written and videos made about it. You might even catch a little glimpse of me trying to hide in the background. 

There’s something irresistible about a $5,000 Burger headline that will always generate the clicks which means the media will stay interested. And so, after a simple press release, the word of mouth continued FOR YEARS and we didn’t have to do much other than occasionally throw out the idea when a journalist came to town or showed interest in the hotel. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.  

Let it be known, the burger isn’t actually $5,000, but the bottle of Chatau Patreus that comes with it is. So really, you’re getting the burger for free–another little tidbit that tickled the media endlessly. And when we’d tell them they could come in and try the burger (for a confirmed story, of course) it was like you told them they would be dining with Celine Dion herself. Glee. Of course, the burger is pretty extravagant — it’s made with Kobe beef then topped with lobster, foie gras and truffles — but those $100 worth of ingredients were paid for many times over by the endless press it produced. 

Now that I’ve pointed this little phenomenon out, you’ll start to see it everywhere — a gold-plated chocolate dessert, an outrageous vacation package, a cocktail with a diamond ring in the center of the ice cube —  all created to generate buzz and get media’s attention. It’s a harmless trick that customers enjoy and media loves. 

Here’s a little caveat though: you actually do need to be able to deliver on it on the off chance that a lottery winner walks in and wants to order your $1,000 ice cream sundae. Which sounds like a good problem to have. 

So what’s your $5k burger idea? 

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