Food critics furious after Chicago restaurant sneakily served them three-day-old food
When you're a young restaurant business desperately trying to stay afloat, the word of a renowned critic can be the thing that makes or breaks your future in the culinary business. I've only watched the first 15 minutes of that Jon Favreau movie Chef, but public opinion can change in a second in the face of a bad review.
So, one way to hurdle that particular obstacle is to invite the press, including food writers, social media influencers and other members of the public. Giant - a critically acclaimed restaurant based out in Chicago, Illinois - did exactly that, but things were not what they seemed, as the gathered food press were soon to find out.
Now another thing that businesses like to do - food businesses included - is to create memorable marketing campaigns so that people's memories of that company are burned into the public consciousness. Now, Giant brought all these food people into their restaurant with the promise of "interesting preservation techniques, and fresh and seasonal ingredients".
Interesting preservation techniques, huh? What could that possibly mean? Well, they found out very quickly that this meant that the preservation mentioned here was actually just plastic wrapping, and that some of the food on their menu that day was actually made three days prior.
Now, I can see why Giant might have wanted to try serving people three-day-old food to make some point about preservation and freshness, but I would probably try to do so with people who were aware that they were part of a viral marketing campaign, and I definitely wouldn't do that with the people primarily responsible for giving my business a good word of mouth.
Needless to say, people were furious. Not least Adam Sokolowski, working in food marketing, who went and confronted the chef. “He acknowledges it and tries to placate us by saying the food is exactly how it’s prepared for the restaurant, just that it’s 3-days old but still tastes good!” Sokolowski, who posted to Instagram about the incident.
“I was incredulous, but managed to promptly tell Jason Vincent [Beard Award-nominated chef at Giant] that what he’s doing is unethical, potentially a violation of his license, and definitely a complete dereliction of hospitality,” Sokolowski added, saying he eventually walked out of the restaurant, along with three guests.
The restaurant made a statement to Eater Chicago, trying to explain the marketing stunt.
“When we heard feedback from the first seating, we decided to remove the element of surprise for the second seating and were up front with all of those guests… We apologize to anyone who felt deceived and we see now that we should have been more transparent.”
"As restaurant professionals, we regularly use preservation techniques to prep our menu items," part of the statement to Eater Chicago read. "Our intent was to showcase these techniques in a unique way, which did involve an element of surprise."
Element of surprise is one thing, but I doubt that the food media would have been annoyed to be invited to a free event, only to be on the end of what turned out to be an elaborate prank.