Hoping to demonstrate how the marketing power of NFTs can translate into real-life branding, Los Angeles restaurateur Andy Nguyen in April plans to open the first restaurant based on a “Bored Ape.”
Yes, those Bored Apes. The ones of Yacht Club fame, a community of NFT holders who own a piece of one of the more popular collections in the cryptocurrency-fueled art world. Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs were trading on the secondary Opensea.io market for between $200,000 and $300,000 this week, and owning one is a crypto status symbol of sorts.
Nguyen is preparing to launch a restaurant popup called Bored & Hungry in Long Beach, Calif. on April 9, a smashburger concept that will bring to life the cartoon images of apes as various characters in a constant state of ennui.
To do that, however, Nguyen had to join the community himself. And that meant spending more than $267,000 to purchase a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT earlier this month.
That ape — and Nguyen also bought two more “mutant” ape NFTs at a lower price — will serve as a cornerstone of the branding for Bored & Hungry, which will appear on the packaging and employee uniforms.
More importantly, however, Nguyen’s NFT purchase gives him access to the Bored Ape Yacht Club community, which includes celebrities and other high-profile people with social media star power.
Owning a Bored Ape NFT also gives Nguyen access to events and opportunities to earn tokens. In turn, Bored Ape owners are also invited for a meal at Bored & Hungry on opening day, and there will be other Web3 and NFT-related surprises, Nguyen said. And, of course, merch.
His goal is to show that NFTs are more than “just a jpeg.”
“The reason I did this was to make a statement to the public, letting them know that this jpeg … could be utilized to turn into a brand and eco system for the restaurant world,” he said.
Nguyen, who is known for creating restaurant concepts and dishes that go viral, said he has been watching the cryptocurrency world for a while from the sidelines, waiting to find his place as a disruptor.
“It took a while, and reached a very expensive point, but I finally jumped in,” he said.
Bored & Hungry is a bit of an experiment, but Nguyen is planning to develop other cryptocurrency-related aspects to appeal to the growing audience of people interested in the rise of Web3. He’s hoping to have a Bitcoin ATM machine in the restaurant, for example, and he’s looking into ways to take cryptocurrency as payment.
The menu at Bored & Hungry will be built around an IRL dish dubbed the Trill Burger, a multi-patty smashburger that borrows from the Oklahoma-style onion burger, heavy on the caramelized onions and topped with a special sauce.
Trill Burgers is a brand Nguyen is looking to grow in Houston, in partnership with brother-and-sister team Patsy and Benson Vivares, partners in the concept Sticky’s Chicken there, along with Nick Scurfield and rapper Bun B. The burger is offered at RodeoHouston through late March and the partners are looking for a permanent location.
For Nguyen, Bored & Hungry is an opportunity to introduce Trill Burgers to the LA area. Nguyen already operates a plant-based burger concept called Beleaf Better Burgers in the LA suburb of Chino Hills, and Bored & Hungry will also have a Beleaf burger on the menu.
And Nguyen is growing a number of other concepts, as well.
He is known mostly for co-founding the Afters Ice Cream chain — known for a warm glazed donut filled with ice cream dubbed the Milky Bun — which now has 27 units in Southern California and Las Vegas.
There’s also Matte Black Coffee, a cold-brew coffee concept that has created a stir for its bold and whimsical design by comic book artist Josh Vides. A second Matte Black Coffee is scheduled to open in New York City this year, and it will be Nguyen’s first concept on the East Coast.
Nguyen is also the creator of the pork-forward Pig Pen Delicacy; seafood concept Portside Fish Co.; the cookie concept Dough & Arrow; and a Vietnamese crepe outlet called Banh Xeo Boys.
Later this year, he plans to launch a new food hall with his and other curated concepts in Torrance, Calif.
Nguyen said he wants to see how Bored & Hungry does before he plans for its growth. He is open to other NFT branding elements, he said. The ape he selected — which he chose because it resembles his best friend — “is only the beginning of it,” he said.
“It’s a pop culture phenomenon right now, the Bored Ape Yacht Club. You could be anywhere in the world, and people will still know what a Bored Ape is,” he said. “I think this is a brand that has proven in a short amount of time that they will be a strong brand for a very long time.”
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