Why Guy Fieri’s “fight” for troubled restaurants fails


  • Paul Constant is a writer at Civic Ventures and co-host of the “Pitchfork Economics” podcast with Nick Hanauer and David Goldstein.
  • This week for Insider, he’s writing about restaurateur Guy Fieri’s recent interview with Kara Swisher.
  • In it, Fieri rehashed “tired runoff threats” and looked less like a commoner, Constant writes.
  • See more stories on the Insider business page.

Celebrity chef Guy Fieri was a joke less than ten years ago. New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells’ 2012 viral slam of Fieri’s Times Square restaurant crowned Fieri with such laid-back brutality it seemed like the host of TV shows like “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives “would never completely rehabilitate its reputation.

But a lot can change in 10 years. As I write these lines, Guy Fieri’s rebirth is in full swing. Fieri has enjoyed tremendous financial success: it recently signed a three-year, $ 80 million contract with the Food Network and opened a nationwide chain of “ghost kitchens” delivering only in response to the pandemic.

He is also receiving a critical reassessment from media elites who once laughed at him. The engine of Pride is the philanthropic work of Fieri. Since rising to fame through reality TV, Fieri has raised funds for children in need, donated meals, and most recently established the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund with the National Restaurant Association, who raised around $ 25 million to help restaurant workers who have lost their jobs. in the pandemic.

This week, Fieri appeared on New York Times opinion writer Kara Swisher’s “Sway” interview podcast and he introduced himself as a down-to-earth everyday dude. Fieri made sure to use its platform to advocate for independent restaurants, which are still suffering severely from the pandemic.

“We need the backing of the legislation,” Fieri urged politicians, admitting he was “pissed off” by how the restaurant industry has been largely left to fend for itself over the past year. .

So far, all is well: Fieri defends the restaurant industry that gave him his beginnings and made him a star. But when Swisher’s questions begin to be grounded in specific political decisions, Fieri looks less like a commoner than, well, the wealthy owner of an international restaurant chain. Specifically, it’s starting to drag out the same tired runoff threats you hear from sour restaurant owners when their city considers raising the minimum wage.

Fieri’s take on government regulations

When Swisher asks Fieri if he wants lawmakers to regulate gig economy operating apps like DoorDash that milk small businesses outrageous fees to participate in their low-wage meal delivery services, Fieri s ‘opposite.

“I hate regulations,” Fieri said. “I’m not a big fan of the rules. I think all of a sudden the government steps in and makes it so that some groups can’t work together and stuff like that.”

Continuing his anti-regulatory rant, Fieri cites regulations banning the delivery of alcohol in many states and cities that lawmakers quickly lifted when the lockdowns began to occur. Its implication seems to be that lifting regulations, not creating more, is the only way to be successful.

Instead of making laws to create a more equitable delivery app economy, Fieri said, “It would be great if a gigantic philanthropist could say, ‘Hey, you know what? Here is what I will do. is a non-profit delivery company. And we’ll make sure the drivers make money and the restaurants make money. And There you go.'”

The difference between philanthropy and fair wages

Of course, rich people like to promote philanthropy as the perfect solution to all the world’s problems, because unlike taxes, rich people control the amount of philanthropic donations.

Fieri Hopes that a Rich Person Magnanimously Creates a Heavily Popular Nonprofit Delivery App does absolutely nothing to improve the bottom line for small businesses and workers alike. But legislation ensuring drivers Doordash and Grubhub receive sick days and family leave, like the law passed by Seattle City Council last year, is actively helping workers battling the pandemic.

Even worse is Fieri’s response when Swisher asks why many restaurants are struggling to hire workers right now.

“It’s really hard to get your kids to eat a really healthy dinner and come to the table hungry after they’ve had snacks during the day,” Fieri said, later adding, “Why would you go eat broccoli if you have to eat Doritos? “

The “snacks” in his analogy appear to be the additional weekly unemployment insurance payments of $ 300 that were part of the last stimulus package. Fieri says those payments were “great” during the pandemic, but “at some point we have to pivot. And we have to get people back to work.”

Relative to “disdain of the rich”

For Fieri, rejecting $ 300 unemployment benefits to workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic as junk food, and promoting low-wage and operating restaurant jobs as healthy and nutritious, is not just misguided and snobbish – it’s also the worst kind of nonsense net.

And again, this does not reflect reality. Job search company Indeed reports that more and more people are looking for work in states that still provide the $ 300 per week. People watched the horrible conditions in low-wage restaurants and decided they preferred to change careers.

Employers who raise their wages receive more applications and better quality workers. Instead, Fieri laid off hundreds of thousands of restaurant workers who lost their jobs as lazy. And he continued to take an anti-worker stance when Swisher asked if restaurant workers should unionize.

Fieri responded that the management of its restaurants is so proactive that there is no need for a union. “In my restaurants, if a situation arises, we get involved and fix it,” Fieri said.

This totally unsatisfactory response does not reflect the day-to-day experiences of workers who have suffered retaliation for reporting an issue to HR, or whose calls for help have been outright ignored by management. And the data shows very clearly that unionized jobs pay better – about 11% better, in one study – than non-unionized jobs.

For every opportunity Fieri had to defend catering workers during the interview, he hesitated or actively pushed back. This is because Flavortown, like so many businesses, is built on a foundation of low wages and exploitation of workers.

Guy Fieri absolutely deserves praise for the advocacy work he does for independent restaurateurs. He uses his platform to promote business owners who have been largely excluded from the civic conversation – especially during the pandemic.

But it’s also essential to remember that Fieri is a remarkably wealthy man, and he achieved this through the hard work of his employees. Customers around the world appreciate Fieri’s Flavortown brand for its familiarity, bold tastes, and affordable prices. But behind the scenes at Flavortown, workers are fed a steady diet of empty calories that keep them poor and enrich those at the top.

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