A number of food critics and social influencers are livid after a Chicago restaurant served them three-day-old food in a marketing stunt gone wrong.
It all began with an invite.
The acclaimed Chicago restaurant Giant extended an invitation to several food writers, media members and social influencers with the promise of a free meal. Those attending only had to consent to being filmed or photographed.
The event was to be the unveiling of several new additions to their menu, advertised as a mix of “interesting preservation techniques, and fresh and seasonal ingredients.”
But things went downhill after diners discovered that the so-called “interesting preservation technique” was a nice way of saying three-day-old food stored with Glad Press ’N’ Seal Cling Film.
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) September 13, 2018
One of the invited guests, restaurant-marketer Adam Sokolowski posted his invitation on Instagram and commented on the failed stunt in his caption.
In the caption, he stated:
“Last night I was invited to try the new menu at [Giant Chicago] by what appeared to be the PR firm representing [Chef Jason Vincent’s] award-winning restaurant. We were very excited that we arrived early so we went next door to grab a drink at [Scofflaw Chicago].”
“The bouncer overhears us talking about how we’re having dinner next door and comes up to warn us that it’s a scam. He explains that he saw the first seating before us leave disgusted because they realized they were being served old food. Seeing as it was such a critically-acclaimed restaurant, I couldn’t believe it, so I texted my friend who I knew was in the first seating.”
“She confirms the details and says it’s for a Glad Press N Seal Cling Film commercial, but you don’t find out anything until the end when they ask you to sign a contract for exclusivity. I still can’t believe it, so I walk over to Giant for our dinner to see my other friend shaking his head saying he’s not going in either based on what he heard from the first seating.”
“Chef sees us hovering outside reluctantly so he walks out to invite us in, and I tell him what I just heard. 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!”
“(He also mentions that he does it all the time at regular service at Giant…) I tell him fine, even if it is (which it was not based on the feedback from the first seating), when were you going to disclose this or your relationship with the brand?”
“He said, ‘Oh, after the meal,’ as if that was supposed to add an element of surprise and not disgust. I was incredulous, but managed to promptly tell Jason Vincent that what he’s doing is unethical, potentially a violation of his license, and definitely a complete dereliction of hospitality. I walked away with three others.
“Glad’s Press N Seal Cling Film is not an ‘interesting preservation technique,’ even when they pay you thousands to say that.”
While the Glad product marketing stunt was meant to surprise, not deceive, Sokolowski still left without eating, upset at the attempted deception. But the advertising gimmick is not entirely new.
Since radio ads first aired, there were commercials getting honest, off the cuff reactions from consumers after their usual brand of coffee or laundry detergent was replaced with another brand. But replacing fresh meals with 3-day-old food at an upscale restaurant might be a first.
After the angry reactions of the first seating and feedback from Sokolowski and others, the restaurant told the second group of guests about the old food before they ate. Diners were offered $300 if they signed a waiver and $1000 if Glad used any footage of them.
On Tuesday, Giant issued a statement:
“As restaurant professionals, we regularly use preservation techniques to prep our menu items. Our intent was to showcase these techniques in a unique way, which did involve an element of surprise.”
Although the food was still edible—just like leftovers in the fridge at home—much of the negative reaction centers around the misrepresentation.
Speaking to Eater Chicago, Sokolowski said:
“If they had invited me in and said that Glad was sponsoring it, I would have sat down and eaten the food. It’s not about the three-day-old food. It’s about knowing that it is.”
If Giant and Glad were looking for a social reaction they certainly got it.
— Allie B (@AllieElliot3) September 12, 2018
It just might not be the one they were hoping for.
— Sir Gio (@ses435) September 11, 2018
Example of a brand doing too much. https://t.co/vfcuLzwWUa
— Ryan Regan (@ryreegs) September 14, 2018
why would any restaurant do this? https://t.co/J4xvOqW9YR
— Tim Regan (@MrTimRegan) September 12, 2018
Yet some sided with the restaurant, seeing nothing wrong with paying people $300 to eat the still edible food.
Has the entire food industry lost their sense of creativity, adventure and humor??! Come on people. The meal was free. Everyone needs to calm down and just enjoy life. @eatgiantchicago is one of the best restaurants in our great city. #CalmDownAndJustEnjoy
— mflaharty (@mflaharty) September 12, 2018
However people forgot that disclosure only came after the first seating complained and others scheduled for the second seating walked away in protest at the deception.
no one was tricked. this is an unnecessary smear. and a whine fest. people had the options not to participate. stop your crying. and don't drag giant thru the mud.
— bumpersk (@bumpersk) September 12, 2018
So, what is making them so upset? The deception? Or, more likely, that they couldn't tell the difference?
— Brian (@LOLatLiberalism) September 12, 2018
In the end, maybe no one came out of the fiasco looking good.
It’s one thing to be mad about being invited to some “candid camera” type shenanigans. It’s another to feign disgust and outrage over being served three day “old” food.
— are we there yet (@tabbycakes) September 12, 2018
I'm team restaurant here. These "influencers" got paid $300(!) to eat food they were told was "preserved in an interesting way." I don't know why they're so pissed.
— Courtney (@tryingtotiedye) September 12, 2018
LOLs all around. LOL at trying such a dumb stunt. LOL at getting huffy about a media-courting dinner you otherwise would've been ethically fine with. https://t.co/uNNmvOMvH5
— Ian “Un Jefe en Pañales” Froeb (@ianfroeb) September 12, 2018
It’s definitely a bizarre story, but no matter which side you come down on you have to wonder who really thought this was a good idea in the first place?
That being said, and as someone who works in marketing/sponsorships/etc., I can't believe not one person raised a flag about a potential negative reaction to "surprising" people with three-day-old food.
— Chim Richalds (@TheDweiss) September 12, 2018