Is the Melbourne cafe selling teaspoons of Nutella for $5 a media beat-up, a real pop-up shop, a joke gone too far, a satirical commentary on clickbait or a delicious trap for lazy journos? Well, yes. To all of the above.
In Tuesday’s Media Files we told you about the online outrage directed at Spoonful of Sugar, a supposed Melbourne pop-up cafe serving Nutella and other tasty spreads for $5 a spoonful. Satirical Facebook page Melbourne Cool posted about the “cafe”, and both Channel Seven and the Daily Mail published articles about it, replete with anger over “hipsters gone too far” without checking with anyone that the cafe existed.
It was therefore something of a surprise when later in the day the Crikey office received a media release telling us the pop-up was indeed happening and would take place at a cafe in the Melbourne suburb of Windsor on Wednesday night. When we trotted down at the appointed hour, we discovered a mostly empty cafe that was indeed offering $5 spoonfuls of Nutella and peanut butter and jam (salted caramel and banoffee had been promised in the original Melbourne Cool piece, but they were not to be).
The Melbourne Cool Facebook page was created by Dan Thomas and Alex Holt as a way to have a laugh in their friendship circle about how some parts of the media covers Melbourne’s food and fashion culture. Thomas’ background is in design, while Holt has many years’ experience in hospitality.
“When the post first went up that was done as satire. Melbourne Cool is a pretty small page,” Thomas said. “It’s mainly just people in our circle poking fun at all the ridiculous things that happen in Melbourne that often don’t get questioned.”
They first posted about Spoonful of Sugar last Friday, though it didn’t get much more attention than the Hug Hoodie or a Tupac-themed fish and chipper. On Saturday the picture was posted by popular content-sharing site Brown Cardigan and was soon spread across social media.
The story was then picked up by the Daily Mail, Kiis 1065, Seven News and others. According to Thomas, few media outlets waited for a response before running the story, with only Media Watch and Channel Ten’s The Project speaking to him before writing about the “cafe”. Or as Holt told Crikey: “They don’t want to do any fact checking; they want their clickbait to be clickbait.”
Though Thomas claims they never lied, they did admit to being somewhat short with The Project and only gave basic responses to what they were asked. That might explain why The Project’s reported on the cafe as real (skip to 20:28).
Eventually Spoonful of Sugar had gotten so much free publicity Thomas and Holt decided they might as well do the pop-up. After all, all they had to do was bring a few jars of Nutella, peanut butter and jam into a cafe (which Alex runs) and charge people $5 for it.
As to whether or not the idea itself was a success, that’s unclear. When Crikey rocked up at 5.30pm there were a few people there, mostly friends of Thomas and Holt. This morning Holt told Crikey around 50 had made it through the doors over the course of the night and about $500 had been raised for charity.
So what did we learn from this whole experience? For one, it’s pretty easy to get a story on Melbourne’s food culture published, no matter how few details are available. Secondly, a pop-up selling Nutella by the spoonful takes about as long as you’d assume it would to put together.