It is a fast food experience unlike any other. At least that is what “Super Size Me” creator and documentary filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock, told The Lantern last Wednesday. Spurlock’s pop-up restaurant, Holy Chicken!, opened on Saturday and will end its trial run on Tuesday.
Although some might have expected the former McDonald’s regular would create a healthy haven for the foodies of Columbus, this was not the case. The restaurant located at 2405 Shrock Rd. is decorated with signs depicting the science behind fast food marketing.
The purpose is to provide customers with a completely honest experience within the fast food industry, Spurlock said.
“We’re going to tell you what goes on in the fast food business and food industry in a way that just hasn’t happened before now,” he said. “We are so open and transparent and I think that’s what people are a little taken aback by.”
The restaurant features facts about the process chickens go through and the reality of the “health halo.” This term has been used to describe when unhealthy foods are viewed as healthy by being associated with terms such as “free-range”, “cage-free” and “artisanal.” The main menu item, the chicken sandwich is actually 860 calories, more than the McDonald’s Big Mac’s 563.
“All the food has a ‘health halo.’ It’s not a vegetarian restaurant, it’s not grilled chicken, it’s a grilled crispy chicken (sandwich),” Spurlock said. “We put that name on there, ultimately, to make you aware that or give you the idea that maybe it’s healthier than it is, which is the whole idea of the health halo.”
Shelley Mann, PR consultant, said Spurlock has been telling the same story since the beginning while remaining 100 percent honest throughout. She added that Spurlock is filmed at all times and the footage from the restaurant opening could appear in a documentary, but that was not the purpose of the restaurant.
“We were very clear from the beginning that it is a restaurant concept from a documentary filmmaker and we’ve been surprised by the coverage (since the restaurant opened),” Mann said. “I think what’s happening is that reporters maybe didn’t ask the right questions beforehand and they’re feeling like they were tricked … (Spurlock) never actually said it was healthy and we’ve been very transparent about the fact that it’s 860 calories for a sandwich.”
Spurlock said most people don’t realize how the food industry lies to consumers and manipulates them into believing certain things about their food. Holy Chicken! aims to change that by showing and telling consumers the truth Spurlock said he believes they should know.
“Not only is Holy Chicken! starting to change your perception of what you thought Holy Chicken! would be,” he said. “But simultaneously I think it changes your perception of what the food industry does to begin with, which is fantastic.”
Spurlock said depending on investor interest, they plan to reopen the current Holy Chicken! in January 2017. He said they actually plan to expand across the nation.
“There’s people who want to frame this as being not a real restaurant, which there’s nothing further from the truth,” Spurlock said. “We are a real restaurant, serving real food with real employees that is going to become a real fixture in Columbus (in) 2017.”
On Saturday, the restaurant served more than 500 people and sold out of food by 3 p.m., Mann said. Sunday, they also sold out before 3 p.m. Spurlock pointed to word-of-mouth as the way most customers have been drawn to the restaurant.
“As we’ve seen here over the last few days, the response we’ve gotten from customers is people love it. People want to keep coming back,” he said. “The proof is already starting to be in the pudding of what we can do with this as a franchise, so opening these back up in first quarter of next year is something I am so excited about and is showing me the possibility of taking it even beyond that.”
Holy Chicken! at 2405 Schrock Rd., will be open for the final days of the trial pop-up run on Monday and Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Spurlock will also be there to speak with customers about the restaurant and its concept.