Holy Chicken? Holy Cow! Was it all a stunt by 'Super Size Me' filmmaker?Maybe he wants to go into the fast food business, maybe he doesn't. Maybe he wants make a "documentary" that will show how smart he is and hip to marketing strategies he is and how godawful stupid the people who bought a sandwich from him are.
For Morgan Spurlock’s most recent act, the filmmaker tricked most of central Ohio. Spurlock, best known for his documentaries and especially the Academy-Award nominated "SuperSize Me," has recently told anyone who would listen that his focus has changed. Instead of continuing to rail against the fast-food industry that he worked to expose — his"Super Size Me" showed what happened after he ate nothing but food from McDonald's for 30 days — he recently announced that he would bring a "pop-up" chicken restaurant to the Columbus area.
In a Dispatch article that ran on the front of the Business section in Saturday's paper, Spurlock said his new Holy Chicken on Schrock Road in Westerville would be a healthier alternative to other chicken restaurants. And he said he would open it for only four days to get feedback from customers before a permanent location was opened. Spurlock promised a new "chicken experience" and "fast-food made with integrity," saying Holy Chicken would use "100 percent natural free-range chickens."
So when Spurlock opened on Saturday at the 2405 Schrock Road location, it was with fanfare.Mayor Andrew J. Ginther's office was there for a ribbon cutting, as were representatives from the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, Connects Columbus and Experience Columbus. The state House of Representatives sent an official proclamation.
“We want people to be able to eat food that’s good for them and healthy, so we’re very excited about the energy you’re bringing to our city,” Ginther spokeswoman Robin Davis said to Spurlock at the grand opening. At one point, hundreds of people in a line wrapped around the building awaiting the healthier chicken sandwiches.
But as Spurlock cut the ribbon and guests munched on the food, cards on the tables told a different story. The chickens used at the restaurant were raised “pretty much the same as all industrial chickens,” the cards said.“Every year these chains continue to sell us the same tired food that they always have, but now with improved marketing and spin,” Spurlock said. He pointed out that, by a restaurant using certain colors, certain signs and certain words, customers feel as though they are doing better and eating healthier, when perhaps they aren't.
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Few customers, however, seemed to realize what was going on, as they continued to buy the $7.50 chicken sandwiches that a Tweet later said sold out by 3 p.m.
†, however, was paying attention. The Westerville resident said she took her daughters to Holy Chicken because she supports animal rights. But when she read the cards on the tables and the writing on the wall, she left “disgusted.”
Spurlock wouldn't say whether this stunt was all part of perhaps another documentary. He did, however, have people coming into the restaurant sign waivers to be filmed. Spurlock said only that the "shoots everything," and said it still might have something to do with really opening a restaurant. "We'll go back, we’ll use a lot of this material to talk to investors to say, ‘Here’s what we have. Here’s the reaction from people,’” he said.
†name redacted to protect the poor woman from well deserved ridicule
I doubt that his stunt proves any of that. People are curious and will show up at a new restaurant to try the food. The real trick in the restaurant business is to get them to come back. To abuse their curiosity as Spurlock appears to have done, is simply proving that Spurlock is a jerk.
*When my kids were in middle school, they had this little joke: "It's all fun and games until somebody gets an eye poked out, and then it gets funner, if funner is a word." Spurlock seems to be at a middle school level of humor. Undoubtedly the NYTimes‡ will love the "documentary".
‡Style note. The newspaper called The Times is published in London, England. It is the platonic form of a newspaper that all other newspapers that have taken the name "Times", wish to be earthly instantiations of. All newspapers other than The Times, must be referred to with their place of publication to distinguish them from the real thing, e.g. The New York Times (a/k/a NYTimes), The Los Angeles Times (a/k/a LATimes), etc.