Snake Oil Mondays at Fridays

COMMENTARY - If you thought turning the calendar from 2017 to 2018 might usher in a refreshing new wave of logic and common sense…well, it didn’t. Nope. After a holiday break to stand in airports drinking $5 coffee on their way to see relatives they can’t stand, Americans are back to their normal routines – drinking $5 coffee while they stare at their phones absorbing the day’s news from social media.

Cynical much, you ask? Yep. Enveloped by a sense of despair? Close.

That’s because we are now living in the Golden Age for snake oil salesmen. The rapid advent of the internet and social media means that at no time in history has it been easier to promote false ideas and encourage people to take action that is at best, wrong, and at worst, dangerous to man and beast.

Today’s example is brought to us by TGI Fridays, the restaurant chain with 962 locations in 60 countries. A week ago Fridays announced it will add the plant-based Beyond Meat burger to its menu at more than 450 locations in the U.S. That’s cool, because Fridays is privately-owned by Sentinel Capital Partners and TriArtisan Capital Partners, and they’re free to operate their business however they see fit.

This week, however, TGI Fridays sees fit to disparage your business in a transparent attempt to bolster theirs.

Fridays, with a menu that includes burgers, wings, chicken strips, and an assortment of other delicious animal foods, now says it will join forces with the non-profit organization behind the Meatless Monday campaign. Let that sink in for a moment.

TGI Fridays, a restaurant chain in operation since 1965, will now actively promote – through its social media channels – an organization that hopes to end livestock and meat production, all while selling animal foods to its customers.

Announcing the collaboration, TGI Fridays says through its online promotional activities and social media it has the potential of drawing diverse consumers to the meat-centric chain. A head-scratcher, for sure, but the folks at Meatless Monday are ecstatic.

“We’re excited that TGI Fridays, an iconic global restaurant brand, is leveraging Monday as a day to attract consumers to try Beyond Burger and Friday’s other plant-based selections,” said Dana Smith, Meatless Monday campaign director.

For the record, the Meatless Monday message is: “Skipping meat one day a week is good for you, great for your nation’s health, and better for the planet.”

Reams of gigabytes can be written about why that message is a myth, and there’s plenty of science that shows livestock production can co-exist with environmental stewardship while helping feed a hungry planet. None of which matters to TGI Fridays, of course. They want to sell you a veggie burger on Mondays, and they want you to leave their restaurant feeling all warm and fuzzy that you’ve made a small contribution to saving the planet and ending animal suffering.

None of which could be further from the truth, but then, snake oil has never relied on truth for its effectiveness.