I stumbled on another hidden gem today.
I've know that Laravel has both
But for more complicated scenarios, you can run
firstOr() which accepts a callback as the first argument that is run if the query does not turn up any results.
This is really useful if you want to make sure you always have a model returned, but maybe need to do something a tad different on the model's creation.
The API documentation talks this here
Note: this only works on Laravel 5.4 and above.