By Emily Mullen
The app is known for serving up short videos on everything from fashion hacks, cooking tutorials to funny skits. But videos from regular Irish people in their teens and 20s have created a growing niche in terms of food consumption. This niche sees users visit, sample, and rep their local cafes and restaurants.
Success on TikTok happens at a swift and alarming rate. The makeup of the algorithm means that some videos are by all accounts hidden while others are aggressively promoted to users.
TikTok decides what will become viral, which is a troubling concept when the app’s moderation guidelines are in line with what The People’s Republic of China deems to be acceptable. This has meant that the app has a track record of hiding content “sensitive” to China, such as videos that show gay rights, same-sex couples interacting, or mentions of ethnic minorities like the Tibetians or the Uighurs.
The flipside of this is that TikTok users can become dizzyingly famous when the app decides to fling them into viral superstardom. Luckily for us, TikTok hadn’t deemed the food industry in Ireland to be offensive to these moderation guidelines, and we are allowed to enjoy the happy patter of TikTokers purchasing and promoting local businesses.
Aside from losing countless hours of their day’s frequent users of the app will have noticed an uptake in food videos. This is unsurprising, since we are in a never-ending lockdown, and all we can do is go for a walk or eat. The videos are by nature super short and are pretty informative.
The videos all follow a similar flow, typically a quick intro of who is going to be trying the food, where the business is based, a flash of a sign, staff busily making food, the takeaway food cartons propped up on car dashboards, and then the TikTokers eating it. Even though it’s repetitive, there’s something quite soothing about watching random people order food and eat it.
This content is also great for the businesses that are the subject of it. Having TikTokers champion your business after a year struggling through a pandemic has to be a big lift.
Countless numbers of these businesses have changed their entire set ups and invested large sums of money in transitioning to takeaways and food trucks. Seeing your products being fed onto the screens of thousands of people in the right geographical area is surely any business owner’s dream situation.
The TikTokers who visit these businesses are typically kind and normally complimentary about the food and the experience. They want to share a positive experience online and are going to these places with the intention of promoting their food and highlighting a particular dish. They do seem like they want to champion something and also belong to something bigger than themselves, which given the current hack of the world is not something to sniff at. They are typically super sound and credit the business, tagging them and hashtagging them, as well as encouraging others to try it too.
One such business is Toast Office, which has seen a major push in footfall from the app. The Belfast-based business has been the subject of endless videos of their cheese toasties which have become a “must try” in the city.
Countless videos have appeared on the app of punters happily queuing in the rain for the toasties, then carefully pulling the toastie apart to show the cheese oozing between each side of the bread. This online exposure has been a massive help to the business, as co-owner of Toast Office Ema told District, “TikTok has been an excellent platform to help bring awareness”.
While the company has slick branding and promote their brand through their own social media, the Tiktok fame does seem to have been a random surprise to the owners. “People really do enjoy recording the delicious oozing cheese from the grilled cheese sandwiches,” Ema added.
Becoming known as a “TikTokable” place is nothing to sniff at, though it might be tough for company’s who are still struggling with what is “Instagramable” to wrap their heads around.
The Irish userbase of the app which currently stands at around 900k is expected to grow steadily next year, helped along by the increase in social media use.
Tiktok success does seem to be happening mostly at random, whether the business is even active on the app or not. Of course, it can’t hurt to have a presence there and plenty already have with the likes of Meltdown, Sprezzatura, Wallace’s Asti, and The Cookie Lounge all racking up views and followers.
While the secret recipe to TikTok success is unknown, some businesses have items on their menus that do appear to make for great viral food fodder. The likes of The Ice Cream Lab’s Marshmallow Bomb, Kakilang’s souffle pancakes, and Scrumdiddly’s creations do bang of social-media-stardom, even if they haven’t quite gotten there yet.
But like with everything on TikTok it’s impossible to predict what will take off, why one business has the edge over another seems hard to differentiate. Either way, it’s a bit of a win-win for everyone, free promotion for Irish businesses, food for the TikTokers, and mind-numbing content for us.
Elsewhere on District: Forget the “f*ckin chicken” here’s why you need to order 147 Deli’s Reuben