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Holy Chicken May Not be a Real Restaurant, But Still Delivers an Important Message

Walker Evans Walker Evans Holy Chicken May Not be a Real Restaurant, But Still Delivers an Important MessagePhoto by Jeff Vespa/Wire Image.
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Just like the tagline proclaims, Holy Chicken is indeed too good to be true. It’s not healthy. It’s not even likely to become a real restaurant beyond the four day pop-up. But the purpose behind it is indeed real, and the message it conveys is an important one.

Holy Chicken founder and documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock has made a name for himself as a contrarian when it comes to the world of fast food, nutrition, marketing and other related topics. His popular 2004 documentary Super Size Me took on McDonald’s and other fast food giants for their unhealthy menus and practices, and the effects that they have on the American physique and psychology. His 2011 documentary POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold takes on corporate product placement and the deceptiveness of advertising and marketing. Holy Chicken could easily be seen as the culmination of both.

The small amount of press information that Spurlock doled out to the public in advance has been laden with buzzword terminology, dubbing Holy Chicken not as an actual restaurant, but instead as an “Authentic Mission-Driven, Farm-To-Table, All-Natural, TranspareLocaLicious Chicken Experience”. And while Spurlock has played coy with his responses during two Columbus Underground interviews over the past week, it’s hard not to notice how many holes he pokes into his concept with the language plastered on the walls of the restaurant:


Unless you’re an industry insider, then the term “health halo” might be one you’re unfamiliar with, but the concept is something that Americans have become more and more exposed to in recent years. The wikipedia definition states that the phrase “denotes a phenomenon in which there is a halo effect on certain foods or brands, causing them to be perceived as healthy”, noting that this can also lead to increased consumption of said products.

That means that we’re all more likely to gravitate toward food that is marketed and advertised as being healthy, whether or not it actually is. The Holy Chicken “Grilled Crispy Chicken Sandwich” — while delicious — is also a whopping 860 calories and prepared in a deep fryer. Ordering a side of “Crunchy Greens” yields a serving of breaded and deep fried green beans, which is something you’re more likely to find at the Ohio State Fair rather than at a truly healthy restaurant.

Healthy? No. Delicious? Yes. — Photo by Walker Evans.

Healthy? No. Delicious? Yes.

Of course, while some customers may feel deceived by Holy Chicken during its quick run, Spurlock is hiding his intentions in broad daylight. Take home containers of tenders proclaim of their chicken that “we never, ever called it fried, even though it is” and brown paper to-go sacks state that “studies have shown that these simple bags make customers more likely to believe that fast food is healthy, artisanal, and good for the environment — even though it’s none of those things.”

Attentive customers might even notice another sign on the wall that bluntly states that Spurlock “learned that most people don’t actually want healthy grilled chicken sandwiches — what they want is to feel healthy while eating delicious, deep-fried food”.

“What do people want more than somebody finally being honest with them about their food?” Spurlock said to Columbus Underground writer Lauren Sega during an interview last week. “What we want to accomplish is something that’s very different from what all the other fast food companies do, which is transparency, honesty.”

Well played, Morgan. We’re already looking forward to the documentary that comes out of this.

For more information, visit www.holychickenusa.com.

Photos and video by Walker Evans.

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