Now Spurlock is back 15 years later with Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!.
Except, instead of binging on fast food, he opens a chicken sandwich restaurant and reveals what goes on behind it. And now he's got a pop-up location in Manhattan as part of the marketing campaign.
But it will take more than timing to make this work. Tying a pop-up restaurant or food service to a media property isn't new. Last year saw two efforts. One was AMC's launch, to support Better Call Saul, of a Los Pollos Hermanos chicken delivery service. The brand is one that was created in, and which became an integral story line part of, the popular Breaking Bad.
But once you've opened a restaurant, you've gone beyond a media convention and it's open season on how well the food does. At the time, Ad Age's review of the food was none too warm:
"The chicken was fine, nothing special," he says. "I couldn't help but be disappointed. It's been a while since I ate fried chicken regularly, but I'd say it's no KFC, much less [Brooklyn restaurant] Buttermilk Channel."
It was, however, better than the fries, which were "mildly spicy and curly but didn't travel as well," he says.
Then there were pop-up versions of the diner from the TV show Saved by the Bell that moved from city to city. Yelp reviews of the Los Angeles version were mixed. Many people loved being on the real life equivalent of a set they had enjoyed growing up. The food? Even though one of the people behind it was a Chicago chef of a restaurant that had won a Michelin star--a major accomplishment in the restaurant world--the complaints about the food were rampant, including "cold," "terrible," "stale," and "pretty darned gross."
Guessing a Michelin star for the venture was probably not in the works.
Things like pop-ups sound good, particularly to marketing people who enjoy what should be a cool project and something to pump up the resume. But if you've ever worked in a restaurant, particularly one that had just opened, you'll know how hard it is to get an operation up and running in a short period of time. Training people, working out the kinks, making sure the recipes are something patrons will enjoy--it can be harrowing and difficult. And the more mistakes, the more the complaints come in.
Spurlock and company needs everything to run right. The movie was originally shot in 2016 and premiered in 2017, then got distribution. But Spurlock's sexual issues ended up tanking the project at the time, because it relied heavily on his personality.
Not only is there the need to get back the original premier and shelving, but Spurlock says he wants to start a chain of actual restaurants. (Maybe he's running out of food industry sectors to spoof?) And he already had launched at least one pop-up in Columbus, Ohio in 2016.
Early reviews seem to indicate that the movie is ... okay, roughly a 7 out of 10. Getting attention for the pop-ups might aid the quest to bring audiences in after a multi-year delay. But the real test will be if it comes across like an actual restaurant that people like beyond the novelty factor and return to.