Remember when this got the WORST review on the planet?

I moved my office about three months ago, right to the heart of Times Square, on 44th and Broadway in the famed Paramount Building. (It’s so much more productive – I bump into so many people in this hood, I get business done on my way to lunch, in my elevator, and even as I head to the “head!!” Takeaway – when you’re looking for an office space – invest in where your industry is.)

I often walk down 44th Street, taking in the sights of the flagship of the Shubert Organization, the Shubert Theatre, the flagship of Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera, and one of the great flagship restaurants the city has to offer, Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar.


Ok, ok, maybe American Kitchen isn’t quite the greatest dining option in the city.

In fact, if you remember correctly, it got one of the WORST reviews ever written for any restaurant ever in the history of eating!  And where did that review appear?

The New York Effin’ Times– THE source for dining reviews (just like The Times is THE source for Broadway reviews, right?  I even created a website based on that fact!).

The review became a classic.  It was so uniquely awful that it actually ended up being the 5th most emailed article in The Times that year.  Out of ALL the articles in the paper!!!  That’s some serious viralness, right?

But you know what’s amazing?

Despite that atrocious review . . . and the incredible number of people that read it . . . the restaurant is still open.

What can we learn from this? 

Three things:

1.  Location, location, you know the third word.

Being in a great location with great foot traffic (and next to a couple other restaurants that are often packed beyond capacity like Carmine’s and John’s Pizzeria) always helps. 

2.  People like Stars.

If it was just The American Kitchen, it would have folded a long time ago.  But this is Guy’s American Kitchen.  And celebrities sell, even when they are not in the kitchen themselves.

And finally . . . and most importantly.

3.  Reviews don’t matter if you’re giving the people what they want.

Obviously, Guy is doing something right for the people that do wander in.  Because he’s got a very high nut to make with that 44th St. rent.  He’s working on pleasing his customers and doesn’t care about the reviews. And now, he’s been open so long, that I’d bet most of his customers, and certainly his core demographic, don’t even know about that review.

We have countless examples of shows that have received mediocre to bad reviews and yet have run on and on (Listen to David Stone or Joe Mantello’s podcast about the Wicked reviews to hear their take on this subject).  And, conversely, there are a ton of shows that have appeared on the very block where Guy’s sits now, that got fabulous reviews and then closed just a few months after opening to a total financial loss.

No one wants a bad review.

But you can’t write, direct or produce a show for a reviewer.  Because they aren’t the judge and jury, no matter how much it may feel to us that they are.

Create your show for the people, YOUR people, and they’ll decide whether you run or not.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.