On a balmy Sunday morning in East Rutherford, New Jersey, there is a miracle happening: a shopping mall is completely full. Thousands of men, women, and children have come to the grand opening of the MrBeast Burger restaurant and are now clogging the arteries of the galleria, rabid for a chance to see a man who says he wants to change the world. The 3-million-square-foot expanse is welcoming them into the space, allowing children and pre-teens to hurl themselves at barricades amid the massive indoor attractions, including Legoland, roller coasters, a water park, and a year-round ski slope. This isn’t just a mall, and it’s not just a restaurant opening: this is a collab between one of the country’s biggest retail spaces and a massive internet star — and it’s bringing out the worst in everyone.
Last week, just days before the opening, MrBeast announced the launch on his Twitter account and Youtube channel. “I’ll be working at the restaurant all day the first day and if you stop by you might see me,” he tweeted in a message to his 15.3 million followers.
“I didn’t think it would be anything like this,” a security guard tells Rolling Stone. What started as 3,000 fans waiting in line early Saturday morning has now swelled to at least 10,000 bodies filling the walkways and blocking the few open storefronts entirely. “This better be one good burger.”
With over 100 million subscribers on his main channel alone, MrBeast is famous for his videos with huge cash prizes, which rely on volunteers willing to take part in grueling competitions for a chance at life-changing sums. (He has a strong charitable side, which is best displayed in the videos for Beast Philanthropy, a nonprofit and charity-themed channel that focuses on gifts to those in need, like Ukrainian refugees or underfunded American schools.) In a hide-and-seek video released on Saturday, a day before the event, he gives 100 of his subscribers $10,000 each and then spends a night hunting them down in the mall. The 23 who stay hidden until morning are allowed to keep their prizes. One mother bursts into tears upon winning. “My kids are gonna have a real vacation,” she says.
On Sunday, the scene is radically different: There are people everywhere. There are parents and grandparents and older siblings and dogs and mall workers and people celebrating their twenty-first birthdays mingling with sleeping preteens and toddlers desperately trying to fling themselves from plastic mall strollers with built-in tablets. Lines big and small run almost every inch of the east portion of the mall, making it impossible to tell where anything starts or ends.
It is constant, utter chaos. The energy vacillates widely between stagnation and pure adrenaline. People must have an official yellow wristband to join the line that ends at the burger storefront, but an influx of new guests have infiltrated those who have spent the night. People are running to keep others from cutting them in line, no one knows what’s going on. (I am not immune to the disorder: my media badge has a MrBeast Burger logo on it and I am constantly approached and followed by children and parents asking me to take their photos or wondering if I am the person who will let them skip the line and meet their hero.)
The restaurant itself is designed to elicit his YouTube channel. A glass bin in the wall of the storefront displays thousands of crumpled bills, while the rest of the array highlights props and clips from his biggest videos. On a white-walled hallway, employees perched on ladders are writing the names of every person who orders a burger. But very few people who spoke to Rolling Stone seemed focused on the burger. Instead, most of them are obsessed with MrBeast’s connection to money — and many arrived with signs asking for cash or begging to be a part of one of his competitions. People in the crowd chatter about the possibility of the entire event being another giveaway stunt for his channel. Their excitement to meet their hero seems entirely wrapped up in the possibility that the meeting could change their lives.
Parents hold their children up as cameras appear or encourage kids to hold handmade signs higher above the crowd. “Let them take a photo of your sign, baby,” one mother says, encouraging her son to take off his mask so the camera could see his face. On the ground, one child sits next to a sign that says “MrBeast is the American Dream.”
Next to one of the lines, teenagers are yelling and arguing over circled pieces of sod placed throughout the mall. They appear to be for some kind of competition and match a large red circle that has been placed on a stage, one of several in the center of the mall. Even after being told by people with lanyards that officials aren’t going to choose competitors this way, people refuse to abandon their posts.
A boy named Damon tells Rolling Stone that he is willing to take whatever money MrBeast offers. “What do I have to lose?” he says. After another boy informs him that others have been kicked off the sod circles. “If I tell them I’m competing for a food bank, they might take that under more consideration,” he says. Later in the day, there is a competition on the main stage involving the circles and at least 10 volunteers. From the balcony, Damon is nowhere to be seen.
According to social media and fans, MrBeast has been in the mall since at least 8 a.m Sunday morning. He is around the burger space, but moving so quickly fans track his path incredulously, like he could disappear at any moment. He has said he will take a photo with everyone who buys a burger, but is constantly being pulled away from the line and replaced with one of his Beast bros, to the dismay of the waiting crowd. Even when he is there, he takes constant breaks, disappearing into the mall’s labyrinth of back corridors, the smile dropping from his face when the cameras are turned.
A budding Youtuber wearing a dress made out of MrBeast candy bar wrappers is frustrated that his team doesn’t seem to be taking her demand to meet him seriously. One girl is waiting to the side to film a video of MrBeast opening her gender reveal card. At some point in the day, he makes a TikTok with the corn kid, who was helpful enough to bring his own cob. The man is physically surrounded, both by fans and his own team, who point a few dozen cameras at him. Waiting fans who have abandoned the queue entirely are now camped in droves by most of the barricaded entrances and exits and shout his name whenever they see a glimpse of his face.
He looks overwhelmed. On Twitter, MrBeast posts a video of himself waving into the crowd.
“I literally work in my studio all day and barely ever leave, so seeing something like this is mind blowing,” he writes.
A teen girl breaks past two security guards and rams straight into the arms of MrBeast who, even while looking a little startled, tries to return the hug and force a smile before she is pulled away by someone. His eyes are wide. She’s sobbing.
Earlier this year, MrBeast told Rolling Stone that he and his team were working on building a Tyler Perry-esque production center in his hometown of North Carolina, likely for up and coming content creators who need the space for MrBeast level stunts and escapades. He pushed back against the idea that his videos encourage young children to focus on money, saying that his only desire was to influence his young fans to do good and make unconditional giving popular. On social media, his bios all revolve around his self proclaimed goal of making the world a better place.
But walking through the crowded mall — seeing the way children are desperate to even get close to MrBeast and his team, the way burgers are discarded whenever he’s spotted, the sheer amount of TikToks and vlogs and the Youtube streams being shot, and the six year olds almost feral for an amount of money they can’t even count to yet — it’s easy to wonder: Is this MrBeast’s better world?