As any practiced liar would attest, boldness can make the most outrageous whopper sound credible. Don’t say the dog ate your homework; insist a pack of mutant Chihuahuas escaped from a secret government lab and devoured the whole house.
The boundaries of believability can extend only so far, but that didn’t stop the truly inspired (or demented) from trying to find the limits of what the public will swallow about restaurants. Here are the truly audacious untruths that made the last few weeks particularly interesting for some operators.
Tales of Whataburger’s demise
President Trump isn’t the only orange-topped party to lash out at fake news. The venerable Whataburger burger chain has been swiping at a persistent internet report that it’s going out of business because of food safety problems.
The particulars didn’t make sense. Why, for instance, would the brand wait until next February to fire down its grills when a salmonella crisis is unfolding right now, as the story reported? Other posts alleged the closing is more imminent—though anyone exposed to business would know a store manager, the source for some of those reports, doesn’t have that sort of inside info.
Nevertheless, the bogus story got enough traction to trigger a damage-containment response from Whataburger. It posted a message on social media reading, “The article is a hoax, and we’re not going anywhere.”
‘Oh, that MSG!’
Some detective work was needed to catch a Florida restaurant in a blatant marketing lie, but we’re not talking about Miss Marple-caliber sleuthing. Asian Express, a station in an Orlando food court, made the classic mistake of not hiding the evidence—or seemingly even trying.
The restaurant boasts that no MSG is used in its food. But inspectors spotted a 15-pound tub of the flavor enhancer when they paid a recent visit.
That led to a heads-up to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which issued a whistle-blowing report on the place.
Health inspectors also found 27 code violations, leading to a closing and reset of the restaurant.
'Hold the toe cheese'
An assertion of unsanitary behavior inside a North Carolina restaurant might have been met with a shrug if there hadn’t been a twist to the situation. And even then, there were some strange specifics. A diner insisted that she saw a female employee sit down in the dining room of a restaurant in Winston-Salem and matter-of-factly whip out a nail clipper. But the gizmo wasn’t for her fingernails. Rather, the woman used the few minutes of downtime to trim her toenails, right there in the seating area.
The accusation might have been regarded as far-fetched if the customer hadn’t thought to take out her phone and videotape the personal grooming. Authorities had to acknowledge what happened, but said there was nothing they could do. Clipping one’s toenails in a dining room is not a violation of the health code, since the woman presumably washed her hands afterward and no food was in risk of contamination. Plus, the restaurant insisted that the woman was not an employee, but rather a relative visiting from Asia who did not grasp American norms.
Now, if she’d done the trimming in the kitchen, that would have been a different story, the authorities said. The incident was such a nothing to them that the name of the restaurant was withheld to prevent it from embarrassment or a backlash.