Bite Club Gets a Taste of Independence

The first rule of Bite Club is: You talk about Bite Club.

After five years with Spoon University, Bite Club transitioned away from the organization into their own publishing and social media outlet. (Photo by Cecilia Chen)

Whether you’re planning your next food adventure or trying to stay on top of industry news, Bite Club is the new must-read since its official launch in May. Formerly known as Spoon University at NYU, the team said goodbye to its chapter status this past spring and rebranded as Bite Club. Inspired by epicurean magazines and platforms, Bite Club hopes to provide a unique perspective and diverse, contemporary content on its food blog.

Bite Club Social Media Manager and Rory Meyers senior Ceci Chen described the logic behind this change in voice.

“I know a lot of college-level foodie websites, or just foodie websites in general, like to be a little informal in the sense that they’re more geared towards likes or views,” Chen said. “We are hoping that we are stepping away and finding a different, more formal voice, but still in a way that we are young and not really established in the world.”

Bite Club believes that blog content for college students should be created by college students themselves. However, Scripps Network Interactive, the owner of Food Network, acquired Spoon University in 2016 in hopes of reaching a younger audience.

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CAS senior and Bite Club Editorial Director Helena Gonzalez, explained the consequences of Food Network’s acquisition of Spoon University.

“What happened was that Spoon had their own headquarters in New York that was completely separate from the chapters, so they basically shut down,” Gonzalez said. “What we quickly realized was that they were just subsumed by Food Network and we weren’t getting the kind of support we needed.”

The lack of support hindered the team’s progress toward their goals, as well as their operational efficiency. Spoon University headquarters provided neither funding for the team nor event spaces and Spoon University’s style guidelines also restricted the team’s journalistic freedom. Meanwhile, NYU’s policy on for-profit, third party organizations made the team ineligible for event spaces in Kimmel.

Tandon senior and Bite Club Marketing Director Christy Chan interned at Spoon University this past summer. She describes the negative effects of the length limitations that came with Spoon University’s specific templates.

“Your articles had to be in a template and fit those requirements,” Chan said. “It limits your creativity and your ability to include as much as you want and be as opinionated as you want.”

As a result of these issues, the team of 26 members unanimously decided to part ways with Spoon University. They designed their new website, bought the domain name, switched over their social media accounts and went full steam ahead with rebranding.

While their Instagram account is still blessing NYU students with delicious photos from the New York food scene, their written content has taken a step away from cookie-cutter templates and in a direction that exposes readers to the expansive food scene of New York.

“It’s definitely a line to walk between accessible, relevant content and taking the next step up,” Gonzalez said. “You are appealing to two sorts of people: people who are really into food and chef culture and who are knowledgeable about the industry […] we are elevating our brand but not shying away from talking about sexual harassment going on in the food industry, but also talking about where you can get ramen in your neighborhood.”

Bite Club is also curating campus events targeted toward NYU students.

“We’ve had speakers such as writers, entrepreneurs, bloggers and influencers come in to talk,” Chan said. “This year, with the rebranding, we know what kinds of events we want to do and want to change things up to keep them more engaging and interactive.”

As a nascent organization, Bite Club has yet to fully demonstrate itself as the innovative and unconventional platform it promises to be. But one thing’s for sure — all of NYU’s foodies’ eyes will be on them.

A version of this article appears in the Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, print edition. Email Elif Kesikbas at [email protected]

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