Update, Sept. 18, 2018: A P.R. firm representing Giant reached out to The Takeout to offer some clarifications. The restaurant says Adam Sokolowski, mentioned below, never entered the restaurant and therefor could not have walked out: “He heard about the reveal before the 2nd seating (which he RSVPd to) started and confronted Jason outside the restaurant. The other three guests did the same thing. Adam also updated his statement yesterday to acknowledge that the main fault is in the advertising agency, who wrongfully pretended to represent Giant. We were unaware that this is how they would present the dinner and invite guests.” Additionally, Giant states that guests had the opportunity at the restaurant to sign a consent form allowing Glad to use their likeness: “If they signed this form, they received $300 automatically (even if their image was never used) and if anything they said was chosen for the film, which is a 30 second clip that was supposed to live on Glad’s website, then they would receive $1,000. They had every right to not sign the consent—some people went this route—and so then their likeness or opinion would never be used.”
This story is bizarre, friends, so buckle up. It begins Monday, when acclaimed Chicago restaurant Giant invited a group of food writers, influencers, and media-types to a complimentary dinner that would unveil some new dishes on its menu. The invitation stated that diners would have to consent to being filmed and photographed during the tasting, and that the meal would include “interesting preservation techniques, and fresh and seasonal ingredients.” What the invite didn’t mention was that the “interesting preservation technique” was actually just Glad-brand plastic wrap, and that some of the food served had been prepared three days prior.
Hoo boy. Reaction was swift, obviously, since the dinner guests were writers and media personalities. Eater Chicago first reported the outrage among invited guests, who were upset not only at being served days-old food, but at being part of a stunt marketing campaign that they knew nothing about. The truth came to light after the first of two seatings, when diners who experienced the post-meal “surprise” expressed their anger. In light of that, Giant revealed the Glad-wrap component of the dinner to the second group before their dishes were served.
According to an Instagram post from one of the invited guests, Adam Sokolowski, who confronted the chef about the stunt: “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!” Sokolowski said he eventually walked out of the restaurant with three other guests.
The restaurant did make a statement to Eater Chicago the next day, saying “When we heard feedback from the first seating, we decided to remove the element of surprise for the second seating and were up front with all of those guests… We apologize to anyone who felt deceived and we see now that we should have been more transparent.” The statement also maintained that “the food we served was fresh and (we hope) delicious, but above all, safe.”
The issue here doesn’t seem to be food safety, though. The days-old items served were potatoes, cake, and coleslaw, which would likely be just fine after three days of refrigeration under plastic wrap. The outrage appears to stem more from the idea that the restaurant used its invited food-media guests as guinea pigs and unwitting participants in a marketing stunt (it’s unclear whether or how much Giant was paid for its involvement with Glad). Guests did consent to the filming upfront, though, so it wasn’t as though they were secretly recorded.
The only moral I can mine from this whole saga is that there really is no such thing as a free lunch. Or dinner.