Keith Lee, a TikTok influencer with nearly 13 million followers, has brought a ton of disruption to restaurants.
Now, another of Lee’s partnerships has proved far too effective, causing trouble for two groups of food service workers.
According to Spoon University, the deal was announced in a video from Lee, now deleted. Dubbed the “SUB-perior Happy Hour,” Lee offered $25 off Door Dash orders of at least $12 for Jersey Mike’s Subs during specific hours on June 7 and 8.
That’s a good deal — but also a lot of moving parts. It doesn’t only affect the Dashers who would deliver the food, but also the Jersey Mike’s workers had in-person customers to contend with.
Given Lee’s huge platform and just how good the deal was, things went off the rails almost immediately.
Some users said their local store simply turned off orders minutes into the promotion, Spoon University reported. Others said the DoorDash app just flat-out broke under the strain.
But a bigger issue than frustrated guests was the promotion’s impact on workers.
TikToks showed workers pulling insane numbers tickets as orders flooded in. One worker claimed she was never told about the promotion in advance and that Jersey Mike’s didn’t care about its employees. Spoon University reported that some workers simply quit under the strain.
Jersey Mike’s tweeted that the second day of the promotion had been canceled.
We are heartbroken to have to end the SUB-perior Happy Hour early. We received an overwhelming response. Out of respect for our customers, the @DoorDash Dashers, and Jersey Mike’s employees, we need to pause. There will be no Happy Hour today.
— Jersey Mike's Subs (@jerseymikes) June 8, 2023
Lee deleted the announcement on TikTok and does not appear to have directly addressed the situation, but he did post a video in which he prepared to pay it back to workers affected by the “Keith Lee effect” with $3,000 in cash, proclaiming his gratitude for their hard work.
💕The “Keith Lee Effect” would not be possible without God first and foremost and y’all, i truly appreciate it all. Thank You 💕 God Is Amazing 🙏🏽 #foodcritic
Why it matters
It’s exciting to land a megastar influencer like Lee for a campaign. Lee has made his name by being trustworthy and constantly talking about how picky he is with the brands he partners with. Before the Jersey Mike’s promotion began, he told USA Today,”I only really work with companies that I want to work with … that I genuinely enjoy.” He dubbed their food “fire.”
So simply getting to work with Lee is already an endorsement of sorts. Offering a deal that essentially made food free through one of the most popular food influencers in the world right now was a recipe for disaster.
When working with an influencer on what’s essentially a giveaway, make sure you’re thinking of the downstream implications. Yes, this was initially a PR coup, with positive press and tons of buzz. But it became a nightmare for workers, customers and DoorDashers.
That damage could take a long time to repair.
In a time when restaurants already struggle to find enough workers, burying them under a mound of tickets and demanding customers without adequate warning or staffing is going to prompt some to look for an easier job.
Workers deserve notice on promotions that will impact their jobs. Stores need to be adequately staffed. And there needs to be grace given for their stressful, often low-paying jobs.
Lee will emerge from this just fine. His earnest, honest persona will see him through.
But Jersey Mike’s will have to work harder to repair both the internal and external damage caused by this too-good promotion.
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