Guy’s Chance of a Lifetime had a lot of potential: a charismatic, proven host; an actual business; a real opportunity for one of its contestants.
Alas, it squandered all of that into a mess of a show, which ended its first season as a mediocre infomercial and a nonsensical reality TV competition. The obvious person won, but the whole exercise was a big loser.
After teaching the contestants how to run an actual Chicken Guy fast food restaurant in the first three episodes, the show abandoned that, choosing instead to have them do things like creating a pretend “pop up” in a regular restaurant, and then, for the finale, creating three new dishes and mass producing that food in tents in a festival environment.
Are these really tests of potential franchisees? Or uninspired reality TV challenges? Are franchisees free to invent brand-new dishes and add new ingredients, like watermelon and feta cheese? Or did the production just run out of ideas?
Guy’s Chance of a Lifetime felt like a production that started rolling cameras and then realized that it might need to create some challenges, so it ended up with a season that just kept doing the same thing over and over again.
Instead of coherent criteria, there was a merry-go-round of word salad. “Were you creative enough? Did you play it safe?” Guy Fieri asked one contestant. “I don’t need anybody coming in and reinventing the wheel, but I do need to see that if you’re going to be my partner in business, what else you could bring to the table that might differentiate you from the rest.”
“At the end of the day, it’s not just about the challenge, it’s the general perspective and feeling of the judges,” Guy said during the finale, basically admitting that the show was abandoning the sketchy scorekeeping method.
The cash leaderboard, which never quite made sense, was mentioned but otherwise ignored at the end. At the final challenge, the crowd judged the contestants—but their vote only counted for 25 percent. So Eboni won the crowd’s vote but had the judges’ lowest scores. Why bother have the crowd vote?
Then Guy Fieri and the show introduced brand-new criteria in the final minutes: “Who can make the money, and who can control the money” is what matters, he declared, after a season of challenges that had nothing to do with either.
Conveniently, the contestants’ chat with Guy also had nothing to do with making or controlling money. It seemed like an attempt to rehabilitate the contestants’ images after a season of editing them into petty, annoying characters.
And it was the editing. Four of the contestants appeared on Guy’s Grocery Games, where they were competitive, sure, but came across as charming and talented. That the power of editing.
At the end of all of this, Guy declared, “there could only be one winner,” and that, of course, was Kevin, who’d gotten an obvious winner’s edit. He’ll be opening a Chicken Guy in Philadelphia; Chicken Guy currently lists no locations in Philadelphia.
Before giving Kevin the win, Guy gave everyone else second place: $40,000 coupons to open their own Chicken Guy franchises. That was the most Guy Fieri-ish act of the entire show, similar to all the Guy’s Grocery Games where he declines to send someone home after they lose in the first round.
The $40K seems generous, but is it? We can get a glimpse thanks to the FTC, which says it “requires franchisors to provide all potential franchisees with a disclosure document containing 23 specific items of information about the offered franchise, its officers, and other franchisees.” That’s the franchise disclosure document, or FDD.
I found this 2020 Chicken Guy FDD online, which says:
The total investment necessary to begin the operation of a Chicken Guy! Restaurant is $622,500 to
$1,093,500. The total investment necessary to begin the operation of a Chicken Guy! Restaurant at a
Nontraditional Location is $717,000 to $1,288,000. These estimates include $53,000 to $56,000 that must be paid to us. If you sign a Development Agreement to develop multiple Chicken Guy! Restaurants you must pay us a Development Fee in the amount of $50,000 for each Restaurant that you commit to develop, which we will reduce to $40,000 if you commit to develop three or more Restaurants.
That $40,000 franchise fee waiver isn’t nothing, but it’s also just a tiny fraction of what it actually would take to open a Chicken Guy franchise.
Guy’s Chance of a Lifetime highlighted a much smaller fraction—a teeny-tiny one—of what it would take to open a Chicken Guy.
So what the cluck was the point of all those absurd exercises? What the clucking hell was the point of the show?
The obvious answer is that it was an infomercial for Chicken Guy, except the actual show did a terrible job of selling the brand. With multiple challenges about remixing the food, it highlighted things Chicken Guy definitely does not offer.
I must confess, however, that watching the show every week had an effect on me. Driving past the new Chicken Guy in Winter Park in Orlando, I decided to stop for milkshakes one night. There were lots of employees, most wearing masks on their chins, most standing around, just like me, as I waited maybe 20 minutes or more, until someone asked me what I was waiting for, and discovered the milkshakes sitting in the back, melting.
The milkshakes were fine, but nothing special, and like most fast food, looked absolutely nothing like what was advertised. Neither did Guy’s Chance of a Lifetime, so maybe it was the perfect advertisement for a fast food place after all.