When the Restaurant Receipt Goes Viral
n a chilly Tuesday in February, chef Mark Simmons popped into his New York City restaurant Kiwiana en route to the gym to grab workout gear.
Closed Tuesdays, the restaurant was empty, but hardly quiet; the New Zealand-born chef was surprised to find the phone ringing off the hook with calls from news outlets.
They all wanted to ask about the 13-word statement printed at the bottom of his restaurant receipts: “Immigrants make America great (they also cooked your food and served you today).”
Unwittingly, Simmons found himself in the middle of a frequent phenomenon in today’s restaurant industry: the viral check.
The viral check happens when some sort of message left by a guest or from the restaurant staff that hits a nerve or tickles the funny bone, is posted on social media and quickly goes viral. Suddenly, that thin slip of paper takes on a new life, gathering likes, comments and getting picked up by local or national media.
For most restaurants, or the guests that leave a message in the corner or near the tip line, the burst of attention is unintentional. But restaurants often find when it does happen it can be intrusive and overwhelming.
“A receipt is something we quite often use for creative purposes,” Simmons says. “Sometimes, customers can leave some pretty bad comments on receipts. And I decided to use it for a vehicle for what we thought was important.”
Examples of viral receipts abound, from a 2014 check at Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, that included a 15 percent discount for “praying in public,” to one last year at Peter Chang, a restaurant in Arlington, Virginia, that drew criticism after a server included among the items tallied on the bill nasty comments about…