How Salt Bae's London Restaurant Is Really Doing

Nusret Gökçe, the reason why people suddenly felt it was okay to run salt through their arm hair to season food, is better known to the world as "Salt Bae." The pony-tailed, never-without-sunglasses chef reached rockstar status in 2017, trending on Instagram for slapping his meat and erotically seasoning each steak for an audience, per The Cut.

Gökçe's first Instagram video titled "Ottoman Steak" went viral with the help of pop star Bruno Mars and Twitter, and within 48 hours, Gökçe watched as it received 2.4 million views. Garnering 1 million followers in his first year, Gökçe's Instagram account reached 47.7 million followers in 2022.

Nusr-Et, the name of Gökçe's restaurant franchise, first opened in 2010 in the Etiler neighborhood of Istanbul, according to CNBC. With the backing of a Turkish business partner named Ferit Sahenk, Gökçe could open a few more locations around the Middle East before social media changed his life. Now with 14 locations in seven countries, celebrities are filling Salt Bae's tables and wearing his face on their shirts.

In an industry plagued with a high failure rate, Gökçe seems to be defying the odds. CNBC reports that within the first year, 60% of new restaurants fail. By the fifth year of business, that number increases to 80%. So how do you explain Salt Bae's UK restaurant and its success?

Higher than expected earnings

Opened in September 2021, Nusr-Et Steakhouse in Knightsbridge, London, made £7 million ($8.5 million) in the first four months of business, according to Bloomberg, with a profit of £2.24 million ($2.57 million). Nusret U.K. Limited, the company behind the restaurants, filed its 2021 earnings report citing "gained customer attention" for the "higher than expected" first quarter results.

As the Omicron variant surged in the U.K., Bloomberg called London a "ghost town" during that same period. With restrictions in place and the U.K. seeing unprecedented infections, diners debated whether to eat out. Restaurants around London like "Parlez" saw all their group reservations canceled, leaving restaurateur Tom Kerridge to warn customers via Twitter that the industry will "crumble" if this continues without support. Even established celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay reported a loss of £7 million at his restaurant empire, resulting in 300 staff losing their jobs (per The Telegraph).

High menu prices were partially credited for Gökçe's success. Referred to as a 'golden feast' on the restaurant's website, Nusr-Et Steakhouse was selling tomahawk steaks covered in 24-karat gold and theatrically salted by Gökçe for $805, Wagyu striploin steak for $781, and a burger at $46, according to The Telegraph. With poor reviews even from workers, the future of Nusr-Et Steakhouse is questionable (via MyLondon). Eater reports that Salt Bae has not appeared at the London location since its opening leaving people to wonder if the franchise can sustain such numbers without the main attraction.