Will Terrible Reviews Hurt the Guy Fieri Brand?

Yesterday, quite a few food fanatics shared The New York Times writer Pete Wells’s epic takedown of Guy Fieri’s new Times Square restaurant. Wells wrote the review as a series of scathing rhetorical questions for the chain’s founder. Examples include:

  • “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?”
  • “Were you struck by how very far from awesome the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders are?”
  • “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?”

He keeps going for two pages; it’s a little intense.

We really like Pete Wells. He’s a true “subject matter expert”, and nearly every major media outlet mentioned his review at some point over the past 48 hours.

Here’s the thing, though: his write-up (and the many other negative reviews sure to follow) probably won’t hurt the restaurant’s business or damage the multimillion dollar Fieri brand. The Guy isn’t known for the quality of his food; he’s known for being a regular Joe who shows up on TV all the time looking like a he just lost a dare involving a vat filled with Axe hair gel and bleach. The whole point of his show is that mediocre food is fun, and he’s very good at marketing and product placement.

The recent “roast” of Anthony Bourdain revealed an unsurprising fact: very few food biz vets like Guy Fieri. Our point is that he doesn’t really need to worry about his reputation among the “foodie” crowd; they’re not his target audience, and (we hope) his fans don’t expect him to deliver anything resembling four star cuisine.

So how should the Fieri empire respond to all this bad press? On CBS last month, the man defended himself by saying, ““I know what I make, I know how I cook…I mean, you can’t have eight restaurants and be doing it wrong, or that wrong.”

We hate to admit it, but he almost has a point. For example, everyone knows that Ed Hardy is, like, totally lame, but millions of people still buy the company’s products. Should Guy just say “I am what I am” and leave it at that?

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