While Giant chef-owner Jason Vincent answered questions about the social media uproar regarding Monday’s dinner gimmick with Glad Products, reps from the plastic wrap company’s own ad agency have kept their mouths sealed — until now. FCB Chicago craved “authentic feedback” from customers in creating “a unique and special event,” a company spokesperson told Adweek. In classic marketing pablum, FCB said they’re sorry to “anyone who felt deceived.” Giant is a popular Logan Square restaurant that opened in 2016 and is a member of the Eater Chicago 38.
Separate reps from FCB and Giant sent out invites earlier this month to food writers, social media influencers, and others asking them to attend a special complimentary dinner where they’d be the first to try Giant’s new menu. The invite told diners cameras would be present on Monday. There were two seatings. After the first seating, Vincent — a Beard Award-nominated chef — told guests there was no new menu and that some of the food served was made three days before and preserved with Glad wrap. Diners didn’t like the surprise. That led Vincent to tell guests at the second seating of the gimmick before anyone ate.
FCB told Adweek the “idea for the campaign is to put freshness to the test.” The hashtag FCB used on the invite was telling: #ThreeMoons. That sparked outrage from marketers and media members who felt Giant should have been more upfront. Influencers were also criticized for complaining about a free meal. Some pointed out diners aren’t always served fresh food as restaurants sometimes prep items days before service.
Not only was the meal free, but diners had a chance to make money. They were given consent forms to sign after their meals offering them $300. They’d be paid another $1,000 if Glad used footage of them for a video appearing on the company’s website. After this week’s reactions, that video may not be uploaded.
Vincent apologized to diners in person on Monday — when many restaurants, like Giant, are typically closed — and via social media. He also apologized in an interview with the Tribune. He also had the chance to explain himself.
“I’m not going to cry poverty,” Vincent told the paper. “But if [a company] says they’ll pay $10,000 to rent out your restaurant on a day that you’re typically closed, yeah, we are going to do that.”
The Trib also spoke with PR professor Megy Karydes of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. She said Glad should have been more transparent as food writers thought they might cover the new menu and influencers came in under the premise they were doing their jobs by attending to promote the restaurant, not Glad.
One of those marketers invited to the dinner who was irked was Instagram influencer Adam Sokolowski. He and Vincent’s PR rep talked, which led to Wednesday when Sokolowski complemented Vincent and praised Giant. He directed his anger at FCB in an Instagram post: “It’s less about the quality of the food at @giantchicago or Chef @jasonvincent00’s craft; I can attest that both are praiseworthy. It’s about the lack of transparency and consent from the ad agency @fcbchi.”
Sokolowski was eager to leave the story behind on Thursday. But many local chefs and restaurant PR reps still saw the tale as a lesson in how customers feel about transparency. Giant’s PR team continued to play damage control this week.
“We never really thought that this would be a referendum on Giant, but more of a ‘see how good this plastic wrap is’ sort of event,” a Giant Instagram post read. “We were wrong.”