The Fieri Effect

Local restaurants try survive the crush of customers that follows a visit from Food Network's frosted-tip rainmaker.

It was back in the fall that Citizen Pictures, a Colorado-based production company, contacted me in hopes of finding some restaurants to feature on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. The company hit up all the food writers in town, hunting for what it called great food, great characters, great atmosphere and great stories.

By December, news of which restaurants the producers had chosen began to leak when Maple and Motor, the meat-patty mecca built by Jack Perkins, posted a cryptic notice in its window. "We will be closed for lunch Dec 8. I'll tell you why later," the sign read. But everyone already knew.

Over the coming days sightings of Guy Fieri, the Food Network star known as much for his frosted hair as his love for blue-collar chow, were being reported on blogs and in Tweets from all over town. He was spotted at Preston Hollow's Dough Pizzeria, whose San Antonio location was previously featured on the show, and Pecan Lodge, a barbecue stand hidden in the Farmers Market. He was spotted in Cane Rosso and Pepes and Mitos in Deep Ellum, too. Each sighting brought Facebook and Twitter photos of Fieri's trademark tag, left behind on the walls of the restaurants: a tie-dyed, spray-painted likeness of himself with a Sharpie signature: Guy ate here.

Jack Perkins’ Maple and Motor has seen a 30-percent weekend bump since Guy Fieri marked his territory there.
Naomi Vaughan
Jack Perkins’ Maple and Motor has seen a 30-percent weekend bump since Guy Fieri marked his territory there.
Naomi Vaughan

Now, as the Dallas-based episodes run and re-run, the inevitable question remains: What's next for the restaurants featured on his show? Cane Rosso's episode debuted last week. Maple and Motor, Pepe's and Mito's and Chophouse Burger have also recently enjoyed the Food Network spotlight. And they follow Dallas-area restaurants featured on past seasons, including Avila's, Twisted Root, Prince Lebanese Grill and more.

DDD reaches 30 million viewers a month, and devoted fans turn to web sites like flavortownusa.com to track featured restaurants and report on recent visits. Before social media, an appearance on the show caused one massive surge in business, followed by subsequent pops each time a rerun aired. Now, with Twitter and Facebook making news of show appearances public earlier, business picks up before the show even runs.

Restaurants have come to view an appearance on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives as an instant windfall. Those featured on the show in the past have reported doubled revenue, and some much more. But that increased revenue can come at a cost to restaurants, too, as their capacity to meet exploding demand is pushed to a brink. There's even been talk of a Fieri Curse.

Jason Boso, the owner of the Twisted Root burger chain, handled his new stardom flawlessly. After the show aired in 2009, sales at his original store tripled, growing from $50,000 a month to more than $150,000 a month, he says. But he was ready for the onslaught, he says, in part because Fieri warned him about smaller businesses that had been overwhelmed in the past.

"When Guy was filming he came up to me and said, 'I'm real sorry I'm here,'" Baso says, describing the cryptic exchange. Fieri told him that some locations featured on his show had crashed and burned. Tiny mom-and-pops, used to handling scores of customers a day, suddenly had hundreds. "He told me to be prepared and I got prepared for it," Boso says.

Twisted Root was already in the midst of expansion plans when producers approached. (Only businesses with one location are featured). Two locations opened shortly after the show aired and viewers, recognizing the logo, swooped in to eat Fieri-approved burgers. Now there are seven Twisted Root locations in Texas, with more on the way. The restaurant has ceased to be a diner, drive-in or a dive: It's now a fully franchised restaurant.

Avila's was featured the same year. Patricia Avila and her family did the best they could to prepare. They had a refrigerated truck parked outside their Tex-Mex restaurant to serve as a temporary walk-in refrigerator, and they hired extra waitstaff and management. "It pretty much doubled sales," Avila says.

But while the Avila's kitchen struggled to meet demand, the stress of running a busy restaurant began to divide the family. Suddenly there was a lot more money on the table, and disagreements about employees, management style and ownership grew volatile. The disagreement ended in a courtroom battle, and son Ricardo left to pursue his own venture.

Jack Perkins, who owns Maple and Motor, took an unconventional tack to prepare for his recent appearance: He did nothing. There was no reason to worry about the extra business, he says, invoking an image of an old, angry man with slicked back hair, standing on the beach and scoffing at the coming storm.

Perkins reasons that most people already knew about his burger restaurant. A line ran out the front door and wrapped around his building, even on the weekdays. Perkins figured he'd nearly maxed out his market. Twisted Root by comparison did healthy business but the store was far from mobbed. Perhaps in part because the Deep Ellum neighborhood the restaurant called home was still finding its footing.

Perkins claims business is up 10 or 15 percent during the week and 30 percent on weekends. That's much less than other restaurants report, and he stands by his decision to not expand. "I'm extremely glad we didn't do anything special," he says. "We didn't add a room like Jay did, or hire 15 people extra."

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16 comments
Andy Marcel
Andy Marcel

just as Bonnie implied I didn't even know that a single mom can profit $6588 in a few weeks on the internet. have you seen

this web page lazycash42.c()m

Jw17smith
Jw17smith

A restaurant in my town changed part of their menu just for the show and then changed it back after he left. Really dirty trick just to get on tv.

Kenny
Kenny

The mention of Chop House Burger is actually Chop House Burgers. the one with an "s: in Arlington. Not to be confused with the one in downtown dallas. We are not the same company.

Planocats87
Planocats87

His entire critique of any given place consists of "mmm" or "that's good stuff." And he's famous for what, exactly?

Steve
Steve

I would be standing behind him with a paint roller at the ready to wipe his image from my Goddamned wall. #FullThrobble

Jay Jerrier
Jay Jerrier

I don't know what they do after filming, but they pretty much know what length your segment is going to be when they show up - but I don't know if Guy or Food Network make changes on the fly. They told me on day 1 that we were going to be 7 minutes or so. I think they do a 7, 10, and a 5 minute segment. They shot on 4 different days to create our award winning 7 minute segment.

Also - you may not like his on screen persona, but Guy was a pretty normal guy when the camera wasn't rolling, had a good sense of humor, knew some obscure movie quotes, and knew quite a lot about pizza.

Sjwsside
Sjwsside

Anyone who has watched DDD enough can tell when he really likes a place and when he doesn't. As evidenced by the extremely short segment and his comments, Guy wasn't a fan of maple and motor!

BuzzardO
BuzzardO

UGH...Maple & Motor...one of the shortest segments on the show, and nothing really to show except a burger. Ohhh hey lets beef up this segment so Guy can cook something for Tim Love, because lets face facts this place has nothing else to offer. Crappy burger, crappy fres, crappy tater tots, crappy onion rings, cold beer. There don't say I never paid you a compliment. Hate that place! The owners a DHEAD as well. Sick of people acting like this place is something special.

biff
biff

Apart from the business bump, why exactly would you want to be associated with this douchebag?

rgraner
rgraner

Thanks for the shout out and I've heard from several owners that having them listed on the site before the show airs, helps them ramp up. It's another way to help small business grow which is why I build the apps and keep up the site :)

Jay Jerrier
Jay Jerrier

We actually signed the lease on our space next door about 2 months before we were contacted by Food Network...like Jack, we were already really busy and the long waits we had before the show were pretty stressful for me. Our wait times are much shorter now on the weekends. That being said, it was good timing for the show airing as now we have extra capacity during the week too!

Scott Reitz
Scott Reitz

Hey Kenny, correction is coming in a second.

biff
biff

I know some Vonnegut quotes that would be appropriate for Fieri.

cynical old bastard
cynical old bastard

"nothing really to show except a burger."

It's a 14 table/booth burger joint.

 
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