So I guess by now you’ve cancelled your reservation at Guy’s American Restaurant and Bar, because the cocktails are said to taste like formaldehyde, the rice isn’t rice, but “an insipid Rice-a-Roni variant,” and the fish tastes like toasted marshmallows. (Wait. It’s the other way around -- the marshmallows taste like fish.)
I quote, of course, from the now famous (or infamous) New York Times review of Food Network star Guy Fieri’s new restaurant in Times Square. I can’t believe someone hasn’t shared it with you by now, but if no one has, here’s the rundown: the review starts out by asking Guy Fieri if he’s ever eaten at his new restaurant, and then asks him a long series of questions about it that builds a sense of snarky wonderment at just how awful the reviewer thinks the restaurant is. It’s an invisible chair kind of thing. The questions include:
1. "Did panic grip your soul as you stared into the whirling hypno wheel of the menu, where adjectives and nouns spin in a crazy vortex?"
2. "What exactly about a small salad with four or five miniature croutons makes Guy’s Famous Big Bite Caesar (a) big (b) famous or (c) Guy’s, in any meaningful sense?"
3. "Were you struck by how very far from awesome the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders are?"
In other words, even though it’s 150% negative, it’s the best restaurant review you’ll ever read.
But now I’ll ask a question of my own: What does this have to do with social media? Since it has been the Times’ most emailed story for three days running, has racked up more than 1,000 comments and been the subject of endless conversation on Twitter, social media has everything to do with it.
This hit home for me when I saw what Donny Deutsch had to say about the controversy on “The Today Show.” Directing his comments at Fieri, who was also on set, Deutsch told him how to position his PR debacle: “These critics up here, they eat at chichi places. This is real food for real people. Enough with the critics, make it the populist movement. This will turn into gold for you, my friend.”
Essentially, it was an attempt at class warfare, pitting all of those sad sacks who actually come to New York and eat at The Olive Garden (quelle horreur!) vs. snobby New York restaurant critics and the people who love them. But unless real people prefer their French fries “limp and oil-sogged” and “also served cold”, or simply love “baked Alaska that droops and slumps and collapses while you eat it,” gastronomic class warfare isn’t going to happen. Even tourists, lured by the name, won’t spend money to make Guy Fieri feel better.
But the bigger point is that when content is shared, it has a long shelf life, not to mention broad reach, and no amount of concocted spin can change that. It lives. We’ll never know just how many people have seen or shared this review. Maybe it’s not as many as “The Today Show”’s daily average of about five million viewers, but anyone who saw the segment featuring Deutsch, and is thinking of going to the restaurant, is going to look up the review. Game over.
So where does Guy Fieri go from here? He goes back to the oldest lesson in marketing. He improves the product, and if he wants news of his improved restaurant to go viral, he invites that reviewer back for an encore.