A restaurant’s publicity ruse gone wrong

Photograph: Shutterstock, video courtesy of YouTube.com

Peter blog

Among the less-celebrated attributes of the restaurant industry is a propensity to figure into mishaps, put-ons and embarrassing calamities worthy of memorialization on YouTube—a result, no doubt, of serving and employing such broad swaths of the population. Take the nightmares that were visited upon restaurants just in the last week or two. It’s hard to say which was the most horrifying. But give it a stab.

What, no Folgers crystals?

The importance of menu transparency was underscored with a gulp this week by the Chicago restaurant Giant, which could have charred a ribeye with the heat rising from journalists and media commentators who’d been invited for the preview of a new menu. Only after finishing the meal did the opinion influencers learn they’d just eaten 3-day-old food that’d been preserved in plastic wrap. Surprise! There was no new menu! They were all part of a new TV commercial for Glad Press‘n Seal! They’d even had their reactions to the food captured via hidden cameras in the table centerpieces. Oh, boy, what fantastic proof the wrap works!! What a commercial this would be!!!

The duped journalists did not go quietly into the night. They objected so forcefully, both then and later on social media, that Giant felt obliged to tell a second seating of journalists right upfront that they were eating old food as part of a TV commercial starring them. But the principals failed to mention the hidden cameras, sending at least one member of the second group into a fit. 

Giant was quick to accept responsibility and apologize. “We never really thought that this would be a referendum on Giant, but more of a ‘see how good this plastic wrap is’ sort of event,” it said in an Instagram post. “We were wrong. Once we became aware that a few people felt ‘punked,’ we immediately changed our approach for the next seating and gave people the full details about how and when the food was prepared, preserved, refrigerated, and finished. I really, really wish we had done so from the outset.”

Separately, the restaurant acknowledged that it’d been paid $10,000 by an ad agency to host the ruse.

The put-on was reminiscent of a famous 1980s ad, when Arnaud’s in New Orleans switched out its coffee for Folgers instant crystals, then filmed the reactions. 

‘Heads up! Woman falling through!’

Employees of Sabroso! Mexican Grill in Garden Grove, Calif., knew something was wrong when a woman they’d given permission to use the restroom was in there for an inordinately long time. Minutes later, they found out why: Tiles started rattling in the ceiling, giving the staff enough time to move customers away. Then the missing woman came crashing through, landing smack in the middle of the dining room, unhurt but clearly agitated. Her feat was captured by customers who had the presence of mind to take out their phones and film the incident.

The restaurant stressed that the middle-aged woman had been allowed to use the restroom, but was not a customer. The staff figured out that she’d climbed atop the toilet and crawled into the crawlspace above the ceiling. The woman was apprehended by the police, who told the local media that she was under the influence of something. 

All the profits you can eat?

Catering to a customer’s special diet plunged a restaurant in the German state of Bavaria into contention for worst-nightmare recognition. The supporting evidence is the 100 plates of sushi that triathlete Jaroslav Bobrowski reportedly downed in a single sitting at an all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant called Running Sushi. Bobrowski, whose weight was cited in media reports at 174 pounds, follows a diet where he fasts for 20 hours, then gorges until full. On the night in question, that took a while.

When the 30-year-old paid for his meal, the restaurant didn’t charge him more than the usual price of about $19. But it did let him know he would no longer be welcome to dine there.


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