Rainbow Bagels and Crazy Milkshakes: What Happens When a Dish Goes Viral

Nobody expected a video about bagels to shut down the bakery, but that’s what happened. The Bagel Store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, had been making rainbow bagels for 20 years when a Business Insider video about the candy-colored carbs went viral on Facebook.

The video has now been viewed more than 65.1 million times. (That's more views than the original Keyboard Cat and the Harvard baseball team's "Call Me Maybe" cover got on YouTube, combined.) Within days of its February 2 publication, the video was picked up by news outlets from The Huffington Post to MTV News and Time Out New Yorkas well as Eater.

Just a few weeks before Brooklyn succumbed to bagel mania, a similar sensation gripped Manhattan. "New York City is going insane over these next-level milkshakes," the January 18 BuzzFeed article announced, referring to elaborate shakes at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer that are piled high with stuff like real cotton candy, caramel apples on sticks, or even an entire slice of cake, balanced atop scoops of ice cream. They appeared on the menu at Black Tap's two locations last fall. Executive chef Joe Isidori still remembers standing by the bar when he took the phone call from The Today Show. They told him about the BuzzFeed piece, which had just been posted. He hung up the phone and one of his staffers approached him: "Chef, we got a four-hour wait."

 

"We became so busy we had to shut everything down. I wasn’t happy with how I had to perform."

 

Restaurants drawing down-the-block-lines is not a new phenomenon. "Humans move in herds," says Adam Alter, a behavioral economist and marketing professor at New York University Stern School of Business. "When one or two influential people —€” or a larger number of everyday people —€” flock to a product, their endorsement suggests to other people that the product is worth pursuing."

In the age of social media, however, these endorsements can spread at such speed and scale that a chef's world can change literally overnight. In the case of the Bagel Store, the popularity of that video triggered a swarm of tourists so relentless the shop closed for 10 days so the baker could catch his breath.

"I closed the doors," says Scot Rossillo, the passionate, self-described bagel artist who created the rainbow bagel. "We became so busy we had to shut everything down. I had to clean up my facility, reorganize it, restructure it. I wasn't happy with how I had to perform."

This is the new wave of "viral food." If a dish is photogenic and shareable, all it takes is one influential user to post it for the "Everyone is Going Crazy for It" headline to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whether a chef is catering to social media or just reaping its benefits, he still cannot control when a food goes viral. (Just last week, another NYC food item inexplicably re-appeared on food blogs, despite being on its restaurant's menu for 13 years.) And when it happens, the impact can be seismic. Beyond the excitement, it's a scramble to manage the crowds, stock supplies, and keep producing a quality product.

Managing the Rush

The line at Franklin Barbecue in Austin is one of the food world's most famous, and at this point has taken on a life of its own. (The line has its own Twitter account, and inspired an entrepreneurial middle-schooler to get rich holding spots for people.) But it built that following over time. The owners could adjust to it as it grew.

When a line grows exponentially overnight, however, it's a different story. "The first thing I had to lasso was crowd control," says Isidori. "Local residents started calling and saying, ‘We love you, but we don't want people on our stoop.'" At Black Tap's SoHo location, staff set up wooden signposts cutting off the line at the corner so pedestrians could still use the intersection at Broome and Sullivan. At the Meatpacking location, the metal parade barriers look like they could have been borrowed from a nearby nightclub.

And the thing is, Isidori wanted the publicity: He designed the milkshakes in partnership with his social media manager. They wanted to create something as eye-catching as it was delicious. Still, he couldn't predict when or if it would happen. "This happens once in a career lifetime," he says.

 

Isidori designed the milkshakes in partnership with his social media manager: "This happens once in a career lifetime."

 

On the other hand, Rossillo has been making rainbow bagels since the ‘90s, only to have tweens with smartphones showing up in 2016 to take selfies. He got lucky, in part. At the same time, even though he invented rainbow bagels before social media existed, he knew an opportunity when he saw it, and his latest Instagram pictures routinely get hundreds of likes. The shop saw an uptick in social media-fueled popularity when gay marriage was legalized last summer and when its Super Bowl-themed bagels got a shout-out from ESPN.

At the Bagel Store last weekend, residents walking Chihuahuas had to navigate the crowd of 60 plus people standing on the narrow sidewalk. It took 45 minutes to reach the door, and another 45 once you were inside.

In a gray felt fedora and short-sleeved floral-print shirt, Ross Almonor was the unofficial emcee of the afternoon. He organized the indoor portion of the line (about 30 people) as it curled around the single-room shop. "You can have whatever you want," he encouraged the customers waiting to place their orders at the counter. "Bacon, egg,and cheese, you can have it," he called to one young customer. "White fish, you can have it. Tuna, you can have it." He managed the flow, allowing one party in at a time to enter as others left. Rossillo says Almonor stepped up when he needed him. "He's in his element, he's a showman." Sometimes Rossillo sends out samples to keep customers happy.

Oiling the Machine

Shortly after the milkshakes took off, Isidori called to check on his ice cream order. "I was like, 'Yo, where's my ice cream?' and [my supplier] said, ‘Yo, you bought everything. You cleaned me out.'" He says food ordering has gone up across the board, because customers usually come for a full meal. Where he used to seat 300 covers a day, they now do as many as 500. He's had to adjust ordering to meet demand, and he's working on restructuring employee shifts from day and night to include a swing shift in the middle.

By now, Aaron Caddel of is something of an old-school viral food veteran. When he and his former partner Ry Stephen opened Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in San Francisco in November 2014, they introduced the U.S. to the cruffin —€” a filled, flaky half-croissant, half-muffin that originated in Caddel's native Australia. Since early 2015, thanks in part to Instagram, patrons have waited since sun-up for a chance to sample one. In the early days, when Mr. Holmes made only small batches, the shop would sell out of cruffins by 9:30 a.m. Caddel says the key to the pastry's long-lived popularity has been refusing to compromise quality —€” while still getting much faster at baking. "We teased apart the entire process of our baking —€” broke it into its logical pieces and reassembled it towards greater efficiency," he says. They maximized load capacity of the ovens, created "stress spreadsheets" to keep track of problems in the process, and made sure each employee was being used in his best capacity. "We increased the number of pastries we were producing and maintained a rigid commitment to perfection."

During the Bagel Store's closure, Rossillo says they rearranged the kitchen and cleaned out excess supplies to make the process more fluid. At the same time, however, he's going to keep doing things his way. He makes bagels by the hundred with only one other baker, Osiel Escobar, though he says he's looking to hire more staff. He still has not reopened online ordering. "Money doesn't move me," he says. "I refuse to cheapen my product." He wants every person to get exactly the bagel they are looking for when they come to his shop. They'll just have to wait while he makes them.

Making It Worth the Wait

Building customer loyalty for the establishment, not just a single product is a must because a viral trend tends to get played out. "Of course there are exceptions," says NYU's Alter (see: the Cronut). "But often these sorts of huge, unplanned viral hits generate short-term buzz." And New Yorkers are so jaded and opinionated that any new trend draws haters almost as soon as it takes off. At the Bagel Store last weekend, a woman cruising by in a car taunted, "What, are they giving away free bagels?" Brian Greene, 29, who lives in the neighborhood, was similarly unimpressed as he passed the store that afternoon. "It's a good bagel, don't get me wrong. The only bagel I'd wait 30 minutes for is Ess-a. Hands down best bagel in the city."

 

"Of course there are exceptions. But often these huge, unplanned viral hits generate short-term buzz."

 

Amid the buzz, Isidori is focusing on his mission to give guests a top-notch experience when they finally do make it inside. "You waited two hours? You got all the time in the world. They'll wait too," he says of encouraging customers to take their time and enjoy their meal once they get a table. He's thrilled that most customers are coming for burgers and fries, too. His burgers had already made several best-of-New York lists, so he thinks people will remember their Black Tap experience for more than just the whimsical shakes.

Last Sunday, 23-year-old student Melanie Corchado stepped out into the sun, clutching a white bag from the Bagel Store. She was visiting from Miami, and she and friends had spent their morning waiting two hours for a bagel they'd seen online. She unwrapped deli paper to reveal a pastel-swirled bagel. "Ohhh," she breathed as she pulled apart the halves, revealing the chocolately spread inside. "This is a cookies n' cream one." She didn't even stop to Instagram it before digging in.

Rainbow bagel leggings are now a thing: Zara Terez and The Bagel Store collaborate

Fashion designers paid tribute to David Bowie, the late British rock star and style icon who died of cancer earlier this year, at an awards ceremony recognizing people whose influence impacted the industry.

Actress Tilda Swinton accepted the Board of Director's Tribute Award on behalf of Bowie's widow, Iman, at the 2016 Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards on Monday night at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York.

Michael C. Hall, one of the stars of "Lazarus," the musical Bowie had worked before his death in January at the age of 69, also performed.

"David Bowie was an influence on everything. He was a culture event - his music, everything he was and we miss him," designer Diane von Furstenberg said on the red carpet.

Bowie won fame for hits such as "Space Oddity" and plaudits for trend-setting pop personas like "Ziggy Stardust" and pushed the boundaries of rock, fashion, art and drama for decades.

Veteran designer Donna Karan received the Founder's Award. Norma Kamali, Marc Jacobs and Thom Browne were also honored. 

The Ridiculous Rise of Viral Food and the Great Line Apocalypse

Not so long ago, one of the more reliable of Platt’s Dining Commandments held that the wisdom of lines was rarely wrong. Back in the innocent pre-Instagram, pre-Cronut era, if a card-carrying gastronaut saw a small riot breaking out on the sidewalk outside of the local doughnut shop, or snaking from the egg stand of the local Greenmarket, he or she joined in. Food lines tended to be shorter in the olden days, and the food obsessives who gathered in them tended to be knowledgeable, like-minded souls. Standing among the faithful outside of a pizza stand in, say, Naples, or a ramen shop in the East Village, you learned valuable tips on where to find other local delicacies around town, and more often than not, after waiting for a civilized amount of time (20 minutes maximum), you would get to enjoy something delicious to eat or drink. Not anymore. These days, you can’t walk five blocks in Manhattan without stumbling upon a rabble of poor deluded souls, desperate to try some newly viral foodstuff they read about, like the one I encountered near New York’s Soho office the other day, winding outside a restaurant called Black Tap. In case you haven’t heard, Black Tap is a nondescript, formerly anonymous little burger joint on Broome Street that recently began serving a series of festively constructed milkshakes. They blew up on Instagram, then quickly appeared on the Today show. On the cold weekend afternoon I wandered by, the line stretched around the corner and down several blocks. Signs had been placed at the cross streets to dissuade people from being run over by passing vehicles. When I asked a friendly couple in the middle of this scrum how long they’d been waiting for a taste of the famous Black Tap shakes, they gazed up at me with a bright, slightly insane look in their eyes. “We’ve already been here for an hour and a half!” came their giddy reply. By today’s madcap standards, waiting an hour and a half for the chance to Instagram (and, perhaps less important, taste) a random, brightly colored milkshake is nothing. Scrums regularly form in Williamsburg for so-called "rainbow bagels." The last time I checked, Dominique Ansel’s original Cronut line in Soho was still going strong, too, although if you want to experience true Cronut madness, the place to do it these days is outside the chef’s new pastry store in Tokyo. The Times just reported on the devoted barbecue loons who for years now have queued up every day at 5:30 in the morning for a taste of the famous brisket at Franklin Barbecue, down in Austin, Texas. And if you feel like frittering away a serious part of your weekend in Hoboken, I suggest you make your way to the original Carlo’s Bakery, of Cake Boss fame, where not long ago my daughter and I waited in three separate lines for well over two hours to sample some cannoli that didn’t taste much better than the ones at your local deli. Not that the length of the Carlo’s line — “We’re not leaving, Dad” — or even the quality of the cannolo — “I love it! — seemed to affect my daughter’s experience. On the contrary, the Instagram-fueled megalines of today seem to induce a kind of Stockholm syndrome–like zombie effect on their victims. The longer people are herded together in one place (i.e., the longer they’re held hostage), the more likely they are to enjoy (i.e., sympathize) with the baroque milkshake, limited-time-only shrimp burger, or dank cannoli their host (a.k.a. captor) is serving them. The famous Franklin’s line in Austin is a case study in this kind of muddled group psychology, and while I’m sure the brisket is exceptional, I’m also sure you can enjoy some fairly decent brisket in the vicinity (the mecca of butcher-style barbecue, Lockhart, Texas, is a 40-minute drive from Austin) without having to wait for six and a half hours. So what are Platt’s updated recommendations for negotiating this new era of the megaline? Be careful which line you commit to because once you’ve been sucked into the vortex, chances are you’ll never escape, as I recently discovered at Sqirl in Los Angeles, where I waited about 45 minutes for an (admittedly pretty good) egg bowl. As my daughter can attest, it helps if you actually like the food you’re lining up for. Standing in a food line when you’re a tourist on the road, for ramen in Osaka, say, or pizza in Naples, can still be justified as a worthwhile cultural experience, although if they tell you the wait is more than 45 minutes, I strongly advise you to visit a museum or find another noodle joint. Only a fool lines up in his or her hometown for Greenmarket eggs, or barbecue, or the latest trendy veggie burger for longer than 15 minutes, which remains the optimum amount of time. If you do spy a megaline stretching around the block, complete with instruction signs and line police gesticulating with clip boards, do what I did the other afternoon outside of Black Tap and run the other way.

Not so long ago, one of the more reliable of Platt’s Dining Commandments held that the wisdom of lines was rarely wrong. Back in the innocent pre-Instagram, pre-Cronut era, if a card-carrying gastronaut saw a small riot breaking out on the sidewalk outside of the local doughnut shop, or snaking from the egg stand of the local Greenmarket, he or she joined in. Food lines tended to be shorter in the olden days, and the food obsessives who gathered in them tended to be knowledgeable, like-minded souls. Standing among the faithful outside of a pizza stand in, say, Naples, or a ramen shop in the East Village, you learned valuable tips on where to find other local delicacies around town, and more often than not, after waiting for a civilized amount of time (20 minutes maximum), you would get to enjoy something delicious to eat or drink.

Not anymore. These days, you can’t walk five blocks in Manhattan without stumbling upon a rabble of poor deluded souls, desperate to try some newly viral foodstuff they read about, like the one I encountered near New York’s Soho office the other day, winding outside a restaurant called Black Tap. In case you haven’t heard, Black Tap is a nondescript, formerly anonymous little burger joint on Broome Street that recently began serving a series of festively constructed milkshakes. They blew up on Instagram, then quickly appeared on the Today show. On the cold weekend afternoon I wandered by, the line stretched around the corner and down several blocks. Signs had been placed at the cross streets to dissuade people from being run over by passing vehicles. When I asked a friendly couple in the middle of this scrum how long they’d been waiting for a taste of the famous Black Tap shakes, they gazed up at me with a bright, slightly insane look in their eyes. “We’ve already been here for an hour and a half!” came their giddy reply.

By today’s madcap standards, waiting an hour and a half for the chance to Instagram (and, perhaps less important, taste) a random, brightly colored milkshake is nothing. Scrums regularly form in Williamsburg for so-called "rainbow bagels." The last time I checked, Dominique Ansel’s original Cronut line in Soho was still going strong, too, although if you want to experience true Cronut madness, the place to do it these days is outside the chef’s new pastry store in Tokyo. The Times just reported on the devoted barbecue loons who for years now have queued up every day at 5:30 in the morning for a taste of the famous brisket at Franklin Barbecue, down in Austin, Texas. And if you feel like frittering away a serious part of your weekend in Hoboken, I suggest you make your way to the original Carlo’s Bakery, of Cake Boss fame, where not long ago my daughter and I waited in three separate lines for well over two hours to sample some cannoli that didn’t taste much better than the ones at your local deli.

Not that the length of the Carlo’s line — “We’re not leaving, Dad” — or even the quality of the cannolo — “I love it! — seemed to affect my daughter’s experience. On the contrary, the Instagram-fueled megalines of today seem to induce a kind of Stockholm syndrome–like zombie effect on their victims. The longer people are herded together in one place (i.e., the longer they’re held hostage), the more likely they are to enjoy (i.e., sympathize) with the baroque milkshake, limited-time-only shrimp burger, or dank cannoli their host (a.k.a. captor) is serving them. The famous Franklin’s line in Austin is a case study in this kind of muddled group psychology, and while I’m sure the brisket is exceptional, I’m also sure you can enjoy some fairly decent brisket in the vicinity (the mecca of butcher-style barbecue, Lockhart, Texas, is a 40-minute drive from Austin) without having to wait for six and a half hours.

So what are Platt’s updated recommendations for negotiating this new era of the megaline? Be careful which line you commit to because once you’ve been sucked into the vortex, chances are you’ll never escape, as I recently discovered at Sqirl in Los Angeles, where I waited about 45 minutes for an (admittedly pretty good) egg bowl. As my daughter can attest, it helps if you actually like the food you’re lining up for. Standing in a food line when you’re a tourist on the road, for ramen in Osaka, say, or pizza in Naples, can still be justified as a worthwhile cultural experience, although if they tell you the wait is more than 45 minutes, I strongly advise you to visit a museum or find another noodle joint. Only a fool lines up in his or her hometown for Greenmarket eggs, or barbecue, or the latest trendy veggie burger for longer than 15 minutes, which remains the optimum amount of time. If you do spy a megaline stretching around the block, complete with instruction signs and line police gesticulating with clip boards, do what I did the other afternoon outside of Black Tap and run the other way.

Watch and Be Mesmerized by the Making of the Rainbow Bagel

It's like edible Play-Doh, but better. 

By Danielle Tullo

FEB 3, 2016

A rainbow bagel topped with sprinkles and Funfetti cream cheese is a real thing and it's so pretty you almost don't want to eat it (almost). There's a reason it's been Instagram gold for the past year. 

repost via @instarepost20 from @shopjeen 👅👅👅👅 #instarepost20

A photo posted by Scot Rossillo "Bagel Artist" (@thebagelstore) on

Business Insider interviewed Scot Rossillo, the man who has been blessing the world with rainbow bagels for 20 years at the Bagel Store in Brooklyn, and the footage is mesmerizing. The process of making this bagel is so colorful, it's like Play-Doh meets Lisa Frank meets your favorite Saturday morning hangover treat.  

Yes, it is the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. In order to make this dessert-for-breakfast bagel, the dough is given a splash of neon color and shaped into mounds. 

The mounds are then flattened and layered.

Then they're sliced and rolled. 

Finally, after the dough is baked, the rainbow bagel is topped off with sprinkles and Funfetti cream cheese.

Well, it's official. Every non-rainbow bagel you have for the rest of your life will feel boring AF. 

 

Rainbow Bagels Are Here And We Can’t Keep Our Shit Together

So, here’s a thing that exists.

Your eyes do not deceive you. That is a RAINBOW. BAGEL.

They come from The Bagel Store in Brooklyn, but don’t fret if you’re an out-of-towner — they also ship nationwide.

The rainbow bagel actually tastes like a normal plain bagel, but the toppings are where things get really funky.

Or cannoli cream cheese, if that’s more your vibe.

Mmmm rainbow bagel with cannoli cream cheese from @thebagelstore ..... It's sooooo pretty and SOOOO DELISH! Lol

A photo posted by 📵Fri,Sat,Sun - 4day Response (@jayspartycreations) on

The process of making them is ridiculously cool.

You can see the full video here, courtesy of Insider Food.

You can see the full video here, courtesy of Insider Food.

Thank you, unicorn overlords, for creating this miracle.

#LivingInBrooklyn a block from @thebagelstore means I can have a #rainbowbagel whenever I want! 😻🌈

A photo posted by Sally Kaplan (@salnourished) on

We are not worthy.

Meet The Cragel — New York's Latest Food Hybrid

                                            PHOTO: COURTESY OF @WEATETHATBLOG. So, while we were all busy fussing over and standing in line for the cronut, a new hybrid popped up in our fair city, and it almost went unnoticed. It seems Brooklyn's Bagel Storecame to play with its own carb-heavy creation last fall, which is part bagel and part croissant. Meet the cragel. And, with that, breakfast just got even more glorious. The Bagel Store's latest offering can only be described as a flakey, buttery treat, and we can't wait to get our paws on one. The Williamsburg hot spot sells the hybrid for $2.95 — a full two bucks cheaper than the Dominique Ansel cronut. Best of all, it seems there's no significant line for these, so you don't have to wake before dawn to enjoy one. Will the cragel dethrone the cronut once and for all? While we're not so sure about that, we definitely don't need any convincing to to get over to the Bagel Store and try one for ourselves — stat. (Gothamist) More NYC Food Buzz: 10 Spots To Brunch Like A Boss Anthony Bourdain's New Project Will Make Foodies Rejoice Connie Cam: It Finally Happened — We Tried A Cronut! And The Best Doughnut In NYC Is...

                                            PHOTO: COURTESY OF @WEATETHATBLOG.

So, while we were all busy fussing over and standing in line for the cronut, a new hybrid popped up in our fair city, and it almost went unnoticed. It seems Brooklyn's Bagel Storecame to play with its own carb-heavy creation last fall, which is part bagel and part croissant. Meet the cragel.

And, with that, breakfast just got even more glorious. The Bagel Store's latest offering can only be described as a flakey, buttery treat, and we can't wait to get our paws on one. The Williamsburg hot spot sells the hybrid for $2.95 — a full two bucks cheaper than the Dominique Ansel cronut. Best of all, it seems there's no significant line for these, so you don't have to wake before dawn to enjoy one.

Will the cragel dethrone the cronut once and for all? While we're not so sure about that, we definitely don't need any convincing to to get over to the Bagel Store and try one for ourselves — stat. (Gothamist)

More NYC Food Buzz:
10 Spots To Brunch Like A Boss
Anthony Bourdain's New Project Will Make Foodies Rejoice
Connie Cam: It Finally Happened — We Tried A Cronut!
And The Best Doughnut In NYC Is...

These Rainbow Bagels Made With Cake-Flavored Cream Cheese Look Amazing (Photos)

If you’re in a committed relationship with food, you might want to pay attention.

We just came across a heavenly snack that will give you some serious #BaeGoals. Literally.

Behold: Rainbow Bagels with birthday cake-flavored cream cheese. Yeah, take a few seconds to let those glorious words sink in. These mouthwatering, multicolored bagels were invented by The Bagel Store, and they’re basically unicorns trapped inside of bagels’ bodies.

The shop is located in Brooklyn, so you’ll know where to find me every morning for, you know, the rest of my life.

Take a look at the pictures below to see these epic bagels.

This may look like the Frankenfood of your wildest dreams…

But a Rainbow Bagel with cake batter-flavored cream cheese is actually a real thing…

…and it lives in Brooklyn.

Created by The Bagel Store, these badass Rainbow Bagels feature swirling arrays of colors and “blueberry fruity flavors.”

If that’s not enough to make you drool, the bagels are slathered in homemade Funfetti cream cheese, too.

Apparently, these delicious bagels taste like cereal…

…sprinkled in pure happiness and unicorn tears.

So, yeah, they’re basically the most delicious things to ever happen to breakfast…

…and they produce some of the most epic Instagram #foodporn I ever laid eyes on.

Seriously, who needs a bae when you have a bagel like this?

These Crazy Rainbow Bagels Are Stuffed with Cotton Candy and Funfetti Cream Cheese, Naturally

It’s finally happened.

After two years of garnering crowds for its clever hybridized take on the croissant and doughnut, the Cronut has finally been dethroned by a Brooklyn, New York staple: a bagel/

 

But, we’re not just talking about any bagel. The Bagel Store‘s top seller is a rainbow bagel — hoards of people line up around the corner of the shop every day to snag one — and looks exactly how you’d imagine it to be.

RELATED: A Gluten-Free Bagel Recipe for Emmy Rossum — and Everyone Else

Made with a variety of flavors that some customers compare to cereal, each rainbow bagel ($3) is topped with Funfetti-style cream cheese or a cotton candy spread for an extra burst of sugar in the morning.

Although The Bagel Store owner Scot Rossillo tells Business Insiderthe rainbow bagel making process takes five hours to crank out 100 bagels, the Williamsburg-based shop has recently incorporated nationwide delivery services for those unable to try out the store’s staple in person.

Breakfast really is the meal of (sweet-toothed) champions.

—Grace Gavilanes