Blame Citizens United, or blame Twitter itself, but in 2018, restaurant brands have online personalities. Wendy’s went from being wholesome and sweet to being kind of a dick; Steak-Umms is having an existential crisis on a daily basis; and Pei Wei has recently decided to troll Panda Express. Welcome to our dystopian future.
It’s too bad Pei Wei’s Tiger mascot Twitter account has decided to needle Panda Express for the past week, because the fast-casual Asian brand Pei Wei is actually doing something cool when it’s not being an asshole on the internet.
The backstory: Pei Wei is bugging Panda Express over menu transparency, asking its rival to disclose the list of ingredients in its signature orange chicken. It’s doing this so it can brag about its own recent decision to completely eliminate artificial ingredients from its menu by 2020. The Wei Forward initiative (groan) also includes posting the ingredients for some of Pei Wei’s dishes right on the website—hence the call for Panda Express to do the same. This is a that follows other restaurants’ elimination of artificial colors and ingredients, including changes from McDonald’s and Dunkin’.
But Pei Wei isn’t stopping there; QSR Magazine reports the chain has formally petitioned the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to force restaurants to disclose menu ingredients. It asks the FDA to require restaurants to back up any nutrition or health claims “by disclosing the recipe or formula for their standard menu items.”
Again, sure, this is a fine move. But Pei Wei quickly accelerates from Menu Transparency Advocate to Wow, What A Dickwad in about 60 seconds: “We decided to hire a private investigator, a former FBI agent, to seek out the ingredients in Panda Express’ Orange Chicken,” Pei Wei’s chief marketing and digital officer Brandon Solano tells QSR. “We don’t think consumers should have to hire a PI to find out what’s in the food at the restaurants they patronize. … And if Panda doesn’t want to join us, well, we just might do it for them.”
Sigh. Yes, this is a blatant ploy by Pei Wei to get some coverage for their menu transparency initiatives so, mission accomplished, social media people. But with political news already clogging my Twitter feed already full of catty bickering, stupid memes, and endless pot shots, I would love my fast-casual Asian restaurant brands to offer a brief respite from all the negative bullshit. I guess even that is too much to ask these days.