Don’t eff with a town that’s in its third week of triple-digit temperatures. That might be the lesson for fast-food “West-Mex” chain Taco John’s after the social media brouhaha it got into with lovers of local favorite Iguana Mexican Grill.
A note for would-be corporate spooks: Consider your timing. It’s the first week of August. All the parents have had it up to here and are counting the seconds until school starts up again. It’s too hot for ” well, for anything. A recent child’s birthday party at a metro-area public pool found water so crowded as to prohibit movement and so warm as to effectively thaw frozen meat. Someone’s just waiting to pick a fight, over anything.
And so, Oklahoma’s delightfully loudmouthed and active Twitter community was in no mood when Ryan Parrott, executive chef at Iguana Mexican Grill, 9 N.W. Ninth, announced that Taco John’s had insisted he change the name of his restaurant’s “Taco Tuesday” promotion, as they’ve had the trademark on that phrase since 1989.
Is this a case of corporate bullying? Of course. They don’t even have any locations in Oklahoma. They also happen to have been well within their legal rights, a point that was not lost on Parrott when he didn’t challenge the order, instead soliciting new names for the ever-popular promotion from his sizable Twitter following.
It didn’t stop Taco John’s from taking an insane amount of well-deserved flak from the Oklahoma City social media community. Someone even started a satirical TacoJohnsPR feed. (First tweet: “We strive to reach ultimate customer satisfaction…as long as our customers’ expectations are no more demanding than mediocre.”)
So here’s the object lesson in all of this for you, Oklahoma City: This is the kind of thing that local businesses are up against. It’s also why they are almost always better. The restaurants; the stores; the little, out-of-the-way places owned by your neighbors; the people in your neighborhood; the people you go to church with ” they have to be a hundred times more creative, a hundred times more resilient and persistent and straight-up good, because they don’t have zillions of dollars for next-to-the-highway real estate and ad time during “The Bachelorette.”
Think about that the next time you’re having dinner out. Bypass the hundred or so chain places you’re used to and give something new a try. You’re almost guaranteed to have a better dining experience.
On one chain lover’s first visit to a locally owned Italian favorite, he announced with a gleam in his eye, “It’s like … it’s like you can tell they made the food here ” in the restaurant!”
There’s more crazy and quirky creativity in one ounce of Oklahoma-owned business than in all the mass-produced tripe we settle for, and for no greater cost or travel time. Find the places in your neighborhood; find the parts of the city you didn’t know existed. Frequent them often and take as many people there as will go with you.
Speak with your money: Bullies not welcome here.
Gunter is an Oklahoma City-based writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @okaycitynate.