Lemons to Lemonade: A Sour Review Doesn’t Spell Disaster

When infamously snarky New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells skewered Guy Fieri’s new Times Square restaurant last week, the controversy went viral.

Sarcastic questions targeting the quality of food and Fieri’s personality with harsh, punishing phrasing fill Wells’s review of the restaurant. Line after line of well-written negativity details the critic’s awful experience. Wells includes vicious quips such as, “Somewhere within the yawning, three-level interior of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, is there a long refrigerated tunnel that servers have to pass through to make sure that the French fries, already limp and oil-sogged, are also served cold?”

A negative review in the New York Times can crush a restaurateur and ultimately affect the business’s bottom line, but Fieri’s team was able to use the buzz to its advantage. Fieri traveled to New York City and appeared on Today, to rebut the review in a six-minute long segment.

During the segment, Fieri acknowledged that as a new restaurant, Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar is not perfect, but he also offered that the reviewer unfairly targeted the establishment to make a name for himself. The segment was filmed in his restaurant with examples of his food sitting on the table in front of him: a smart move.

Fieri calmly and clearly delivered his key messages, which he has maintained across media correspondences. In email messages and interviews, the Food Network host repeats that he stands by his food and staff, but he also recognizes that the review has given him something to think about. Fieri’s humble, down-to-earth demeanor will no-doubt earn his restaurant sympathy – and interest.

Is all publicity good publicity? It depends how your organization responds. Fieri’s team took the negative review as an opportunity to positively promote the restaurant on national television.

Fieri’s supporters will still pour into his eatery with enthusiasm while others may venture in just to see if it is truly as awful as Wells describes. In either case, diners are still filling tables.

Photo Credit: Flickr

2 Responses to “Lemons to Lemonade: A Sour Review Doesn’t Spell Disaster”

  1. Sarah, thanks for sharing this. Fieri’s quick response, even taking the red-eye flight to do the interview, and key message delivery to the review were excellent. This goes to show that when taken seriously, you can garner good PR out of a bad situation. I would like to see a follow-up in four months or so about how the restaurant has taken the review to heart, developed, and hopefully invites Wells back for another try.

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