How the Creator of Epic Meal Time Continues to Find Success 8 Years After His First Video
It’s hard to believe that before Harley Morenstein became a recognizable face from his YouTube channel, Epic Meal Time, he was a high school teacher in Montreal, Canada, who was mainly behind the camera.
“I never really went in front of the camera because I didn't want to mess up my teaching gig,” Morenstein said. “I just had this goofy idea to put burgers on a pizza and other stuff on a pizza.”
Morenstein made his debut in front of the camera on Oct. 17, 2010, when he uploaded the first episode of Epic Meal Time, "Fast Food Pizza." The video got 125,000 views. That’s when Morenstein decided that he would create videos consistently. If the video had even received 30,000 views, he was going to upload another one, he said.
“So I just had to either commit to it or not, and I decided to commit to it and started uploading every single Tuesday," he said. "We have not missed an Epic Meal Time.”
Eight years later, the Epic Meal Time YouTube channel has more than 7 million subscribers, with followings on Facebook (where the channel has its own Facebook Watch Show), Twitter and Instagram. And as Epic Meal Time grew, so did Morenstein's stature, with appearances in three Kevin Smith movies and a hosting gig on Facebook quiz show Confetti Canada.
Morenstein's latest project is Super Snack Time. You can now experience Epic Meal Time's crazy food combinations in your home with products such as Pizza in a Bag, Bacon in a Bottle and Mac and Cheese in a Box.
“We made this awesome cool snack that is unlike anything else out there," Morenstein said. "And when people look at it they're like, 'Oh, what's that about? I gotta get that.' Just like when people first saw Epic Meal Time, they're like, 'What's this show about? I want to see this.'”
Below, Morenstein touches on the strategy behind Epic Meal Time, misconceptions about YouTube and his advice for others wanting to join the platform.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How much time do you spend on a video and what does that entail?
It depends on the video itself, what we're doing. Sometimes the video concept is bigger than the meal concept or sometimes the meal concept is bigger than the video concept. But what we've always done is we've always gone ahead and been like, OK, this might take us 20 hours to do. Six to eight hours might be cooking and then the edit and then the planning for it. That's roughly what we operate on. For a standard Epic Meal we usually fall off about 20 hours or so.
What's your content strategy? How do you decide what and when to post?
We post every Tuesday. That's the Epic Meal Time. We never change that. What we did do was we realized that we could post it sometimes a bit earlier and it'll land on the Monday. But we still call it the Tuesday releases. We just want people when they go on Tuesday. The new Epic Meal Time is there. Everything else we mess with, we dabble with, we try things out anecdotally, we analyze it, but for Epic Meal Time, Tuesday release for sure. Also I stream video games. I'm a Facebook gaming creator. And I do that almost every single day as well. So I'll stream video games, but I might miss a day of that, but I don't miss an Epic Meal Time on Tuesday.
How do you leverage your YouTube channel, and to what extent do you monetize it?
Epic Meal Time has made more on Facebook the last couple of months versus what it has made on YouTube. Sometimes the videos pop on YouTube still. We just had one, deep frying 50 times video, getting over a million views within six days. Sometimes they pop, sometimes it'll be in the six-figure realm, you know a couple hundred thousand. But Facebook lately, we've been making videos specifically for Facebook, old meals that we've created by making them more curated for the Facebook type of consumption of content. And the views have been extremely high.
What advice do you have for other people who want to build brands on the platform?
For people just starting out, don't make something because you think it will be popular, make something because you love it. People love someone passionate about something. I'm passionate about making people laugh and I'm passionate about food and I'm passionate about good times. That really encapsulates everything that Epic Meal Time is. If you're like me and it's eight years later and you're doing something just to get famous or rich, you will not be happy.
What advice do you have for other people to make that success last?
You got to diversify. It's not just about the money. It's about the legacy of the brand that you'll have and how much people care for it. So go ahead and get that out there so people have tangible products of yours. They know that you're not just on their mobile phones, you're more than just making people laugh on the phone or on TV. We're so happy that people are eating something from Epic Meal Time, they wear stuff from Epic Meal Time. We have the Epic Meal Time cooking set that people were cooking with.
I've always been the one to say push it everywhere. YouTube is everything to us, but I'm happy that we upload to Twitter and I'm happy that we upload to Facebook. We get supplementary income from both of those. If one thing fails, you don't want to have all your eggs in one basket.
What's a misconception many people have about YouTube?
That once you get paid from it, you'll be happy. That's not true… When you play to the views, you play to the subscribers, you will constantly constantly be trying to fill this void that can't be filled, because even if you have a million subscribers, you're going to want 10 million subscribers. If you aim for 10 million and that's your only goal, then you'll want 20 million. If you get a billion views. You want 2 billion views. You can't let the subscribers and the views run your life.