Everybody loves a secret, right? That’s the philosophy behind a new concept called Secret Burger that launches this week in Las Vegas. But the company is banking on the idea that foodies are interested in being in on a restaurant’s secret menu items and perhaps revealing them to their social media friends, rather than keeping them under wraps.
Secret Burger, which launches Wednesday at SecretBurger.com, is a platform for chefs to pre-sell special off-the-menu items. Customers can peruse a list of participating restaurants, find out what items they’ll be offering, and purchase them in advance.
Despite the name, the offerings will not all be burgers. They will, however, all be offered for a limited time, and in limited numbers. So those who opt in get the chance to try an item that may only be experienced by a few dozen people. Miss it, and they may never get the opportunity again.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind dish that hasn’t been on the menu before, and it may not end up on the menu,” Secret Burger founder Jolene Mannina explains. “At that point in time, you’re the only person who’s had it. And so it does create that fear of missing out.”
Justin Kingsley-Hall, chef at The Kitchen at Atomic, is creating a wagyu brisket and bone marrow pot pie for the program. He says those two factors are important motivators for a growing segment of the young dining community.
“With this generation, you have a mix (of motivations). You have the ‘fomo’ — the fear of missing out. So you want to do all the things that everybody else is doing. But you also want to be unique and special and not run the same as all the other sheep.”
The rise of social media as a platform for documenting meals only adds to those motivations.
“People are always trying to find their way to be different,” says Emily Romero, a local Instagrammer whose food-focused account @eatmelasvegas has 25,000 followers. “And I think it helps when there’s something new that not a lot of people can get. You want to be one of those people to get that thing, (so) you can feel that you’re special somehow.”
While daily specials and off-the-menu items are nothing new in the restaurant world, learning about them and reserving them days or weeks in advance is. And Goodwich’s Josh Clark, who is creating Secret Burger items for each of his locations, says this event-based planning will strike a chord.
“I feel like that’s the next step in the restaurant industry. People want to be able to do all of their scheduling on their phone. Everything’s on their phone. So you can actually plan out your entire month of where you’re going to get dinner, where you’re going to eat, where you’re going to spend your money, and when. You have a calendar of special dishes and special food events, and now you can go create a budget for where you want to go.”
“You get excited about having something that’s rare or created just for a special event. So to be able to reserve it and look forward to (it) and know it’s coming up, I think that’s a great idea.”
Secret Burger is scheduled to start selling reservations on Wednesday, and Mannina has lined up 15 local restaurants that she expects to offer at least one item a month beginning in mid-January. Items will be between $15 and $50, and will be offered during normal restaurant hours.
Though the service launches in Las Vegas, Mannina expects to have participants in Los Angeles by the end of the month, followed by San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New Orleans and more. Her goal is 25 cities in the first quarter of 2019, giving diners across the country the chance to feel like VIPs.
“I love feeling special when something comes out to my table from a chef. And Secret Burger is replicating that for (everyone). It just creates that excitement of something new.”
Contact Al Mancini at amancini @reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.