Consumers are clamoring for more transparency from restaurants, but should everything really be put out there? An emphatic “yes” was sounded this week by parties ranging from 22,000 diners who want to eat in the nude, to presumably clothed Chick-fil-A admirers. And let’s not forget the restaurant that aired its interest in helping patrons who are honest about their dating problems.
Here, laid bare, are five moments when the naked truth turned heads—and, perhaps, a few stomachs.
‘It’s clothing-optional, but at least use a napkin’
More than 22,000 consumers have already put their names on the reservations list for a pop-up restaurant that will allow patrons to dine completely nude. The rationale is that clothing can dampen the experience by introducing an artificial element, blurring the full sensual impact. Seb Lyall, the entrepreneur behind the London venture, likens a restaurant’s clothing requirement to the use of artificial ingredients.
That’s why his Bunyadi will be completely au natural—not just by letting customer go bare-assed, but also through such touches as using edible flatware.
The emphasis will be on inner focus, not ogling fellow patrons. Tables will be surrounded by screens to thwart gawking, and guests will be provided with robes for the trip from a locker room to their seats. They will be advised to sit on their robes to keep seat tops clean.
Photography is forbidden. Lyall has stressed that anyone evidently there for voyeuristic purposes will be shown the door.
The kitchen staff will be completely clothed for protective and sanitation reasons, while servers will don enough clothing to address hygiene concerns.
Bunyadi intends to offer a prix fixe five-course meal for $80 to $90, robe included. In the tremendous outpouring of media attention this week, the menu is almost never mentioned.
The pop-up is scheduled to open sometime this summer.
‘Let’s be honest about this loser’
Where better to have a heart-to-heart with a woman suffering through a bad quasi-blind date than in the ladies’ room? That’s why a London restaurant called Brickyard posts a sign on the mirror, advising female customers that it’s willing to save them if they’re ready to admit their Tinder meetup is a catastrophe.
“Doesn’t look like his picture, or just plain weird?” it asks. No problem: Just approach the bar and signal the need for a rescue by asking for Jennifer or Rachelle. “We’ll get you out of it,” the bathroom sign explains.
It also advises female patrons that they should sound an alarm if the situation is more serious, such as if they feel threatened or if any man won’t leave them alone after being asked.
Bait-and-switch ‘local’ claims
Investigative journalism is seldom part of a food critic’s job, but Laura Reiley of the Tampa Bay Times thought her role as consumer advocate should extend beyond restaurant reviews. The paper gave her two months to check if restaurants were being honest when they touted an ingredient as locally sourced and charged a premium for it.
The upshot? “If you eat food, you’re being lied to every day,” Reiley wrote in the kick-off of a multipart series on restaurants’ routine deception of customers. Some of those untruths are merely omissions or fibs resulting from the ignorance of someone in the supply chain, she explained. But then there are the whoppers, which she preceded to share. And she named names.
Sorting through distribution orders and invoices, she found that the cheese curds featured by the local hotspot Mermaid Tavern were not house-made as a bartender assured her, but delivered in a box by a distributor. The shrimp are not locally caught, but shipped frozen from India.
The expose is already rippling far beyond Tampa, as such other national media as NPR pick up the coverage.
Chick-fil-A’s secret loyalty program
Secret menus are as common as napkins in the chain-restaurant business, but secret loyalty programs are virtually unknown. That changed this week when word leaked of a VIP program that’s been operated by Chick-fil-A for about three years on the QT.
Participants have to be invited to join, according to the CNBC report that brought the program to light. As a thank-you for their loyalty and high levels of patronage, members of the elite A-List group are treated to restaurant tours and private events as well as free food. The VIPs are alerted about a reward through a special app.
Chick-fil-A told CNBC that the program is decentralized, with local stores choosing their A-List guests. The news channel said membership is currently only offered by about 1,000 stores, or roughly half the chain.
Some reports indicated that a member can invite other patrons to join, but they were not confirmed by the chicken chain.
Here’s a journalistic secret that’s as much of a stunner as learning there is no tooth fairy: When a restaurant company says an executive left “to pursue other interests,” you’re not getting the full story. Chances are the person was fired or packaged out, but no one is going to be that transparent.
Contrast that convention with the explanation Toshifumi Suzuki provided earlier this month for his departure from Seven & I Holdings, the Japanese parent company of fast-food giant 7-Eleven. When Suzuki tendered his resignation, he convened a press conference to explain why: “It is my lack of virtue and I am unbearably ashamed.”
He added that he wasn’t worthy of so much as suggesting a successor.
Then he exited, with no mention by either party of pursuing other opportunities.