Insta-restaurants: How entrepreneurs are turning their passion to profit on social media
VANCOUVER -- Social media and a rotating menu is the recipe for a modern dining experience.
That's how Payton Lum, 19, tells his followers about his latest sourdough doughnut creations, by posting them to his Instagram.
"I'm getting dozens of messages every day asking when my next sale is because I just can't keep up. It's been crazy and I love it," Lum said.
The McGill University food sciences student was forced to return to his Vancouver home when the pandemic hit.
Lum credits COVID for forcing him to try new hobbies, and that's how he first got into making doughnuts.
He made his first batch last summer and for the following months, he would make them daily to test various recipes.
He said unlike traditional yeast doughnuts, the process to make the sourdough treats starts 72 hours in advance.
"I couldn't sleep for a week because I was just thinking about doughnuts," he said. "If there wasn't quarantine, there wouldn't have been doughnuts. It was kind of like my quarantine child."
That's how Plates by Payts was born.
He had his first pop-up business on Boxing Day, and once word got out to the local food scene, his following on Instagram skyrocketed.
"Honestly, it caught me off guard," Lum said. "I'm still in school now so I didn't prepare for all this demand."
He tells his followers the flavours he'll be serving up and where and when they can buy them on Instagram.
He said retailers – such as coffee shops and grocery stores – have been reaching out to host his next pop-up, but he hasn’t been able to answer every request because he's currently studying for his midterms.
The loyal following is something the family behind Bibiks can appreciate.
The business has been dishing out Singaporean meals since 2018, but it really started to take off in the middle of the pandemic, when many had an appetite for takeout.
"Marketing through social media and word-of-mouth has really pushed our sales," said Tessa Tham, who helps run the Instagram account.
"It started by posting and having our friends and family follow and through that, it also got shared by various content creators."
Bibiks features a rotating menu and customers have to put in their orders days in advance.
"We actually have sold out every week since last summer," Tham said.
Customers have been grabbing their takeout orders from a Burnaby location but starting next week, there will be pop-ups in various locations of Metro Vancouver as the company tries to reach more customers.
"The dream, the goal is to have a physical storefront. With COVID right now, we're unsure what to expect coming up, so we've got to see where it takes us," she said.
Even though one day she hopes to offer a traditional dining experience, they're relying on their loyal following to continue ordering from them in an unconventional way.