Chefs and restaurant owners who have appeared on the wildly popular Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives — whether they made their appearance years ago or just last week — report some similar outcomes. There’s the surreal boost in business that occurs as soon as hungry viewers set down their remotes and the realization that your restaurant now has fans all over the world, not just neighborhood regulars. All this takes some getting used to. Here’s how the phases of “Triple D” stardom play out, straight from those who have arrived in Flavortown.
Lights, camera, action
Filming takes longer than people realize, with a couple of eleven-hour days being distilled down to the few-minute segments you see on Triple D.
“They really care about representing the featured restaurant and the food in the best possible way — this is why I believe the show is such a smash hit,” says Matt Pool, owner of Matt’s Big Breakfast, a diner in Phoenix, Az.
At Matt’s Big Breakfast, Fieri grabbed the whisk and helped make a giant waffle, describing it as “a hiking boot just walked on a pancake.”
And then, after signature items like Boston Burger Co.’s Mac Attack burger and the giant waffles from Matt’s Big Breakfast tantalize viewers near and far, that’s when it happens. The Guy Fieri Effect starts to sink in immediately after the episode is aired. To use one of Fieri’s favorite descriptors, it’s “so money.”
“We had people calling the restaurant as soon as our segment ended the night it first aired,” Malvone of Boston Burger Co. says, describing the manic excitement that followed. “They were asking ‘Was this the place they just saw? What are our hours? What is our address?’”
“People were driving from all over New England just to eat here and go home,” Malvone says. Soon enough, folks from everywhere from Shanghai to Eastern Europe to Brazil have ripped into the burgers at two new locations with another on the way. It was a similar scene at Magnolia Pancake Haus.
“The day after our episode aired, we were slammed,” Fleming recalls. The main item featured, Munich apfel pfannekuchen (a Bavarian puffed pancake with apples), had been selling about 90 per week, but that next day, 120 pfannekuchen were sold, and kept selling like, well, hotcakes for the next three months until they reached their current level of 200 to 250 per week.
Two other menu items featured on the show also got a sales boost. In 2012, Magnolia finished the year at $3.1 million in sales, about a 20 percent increase, and opened a new location. They’ve continued to grow guest visits, average check per person and total revenues.
Not a neighborhood joint anymore
The sheer volume of Triple D fans seeking their own taste of the excitement can change the vibe of a restaurant, with some owners reporting that the sense of a neighborhood hangout has evaporated.
At Magnolia, wait times went from the usual 60 minutes to 90 to 105 minutes, and on holidays, a 2-hour wait time was not uncommon.
“The only significant downside has been regarding the waits,” Fleming says. “It’s led to the Yogi Berra situation ‘Nobody goes there anymore…it’s too crowded.’”
Matt’s Big Breakfast was a popular place already, but “it was important to be prepared for the new traffic, because we wanted to gain new lifelong regulars, not just first-timers who try us and don’t return,” Pool says.
The gift that keeps on giving
After the telltale immediate business increase of the Guy Fieri Effect comes the “gift that keeps on giving” phase.
Pine State Biscuits, a homesick Southern biscuit joint in Portland, Ore., was featured on the show almost ten years ago, but they’re still feeling the impact. “We see slight spikes in business and email inquiries every time the show reruns,” said Brian Snyder, co-owner. “We get lots of requests for recipes and shipping food. Overall it’s been a big positive for our restaurant.”
David Bergeron, owner of the Creole Creamery, a New Orleans ice cream shop where Fieri got the scoop back in 2008, says he can always tell then the show is rerun because “each time it airs, our website traffic increases during and shortly after.”
And alumni of the show seem to get asked one question more often than others: “What is Guy Fieri really like?” “People ask me all the time what Guy is really like. I tell every one of them he’s exactly like he appears on the show,” Pool says.
“He’s serious and well intentioned about the places he visits and he’s really fun to work with,” Pool says. “He goes out of his way to make you feel comfortable.”