Department of Ridiculous Press Releases: Valentine's Day Restaurant Gift Cards

Categories: My Rant, Sietsema

If you're in the food-journalism biz, you get bombarded on a daily basis with press releases, often as many as 30 per day. Some are faintly rational, but others immediately provoke guffaws with their wild assertions. Here's the best one I've received so far today.

According to the National Restaurant Association: "While dining out remains a popular choice for Americans to celebrate Valentine's Day, new National Restaurant Association research shows that nearly one-third would also like to receive a restaurant gift card on February 14."

What's wrong with this opening sentence? What isn't wrong with it! To begin with, are you going to trust an organization called the National Restaurant Association to deliver unbiased research about restaurant behavior? Definitely not! In fact, this little bit of "research" is self-serving in every way. You can only imagine the leading questions on the questionnaire, and how the sample was arrived at. This is the kind of research model that gives professional researchers who value their own credibility nightmares.

Question #1: Wouldn't you like to give someone you love a restaurant gift card?

Question #2: Wouldn't a restaurant gift card be a perfect gift for Valentine's Day?

Question #3: You're going out to dinner for Valentine's Day, right? Who'd stay home on a holiday like that? VD is all about going to a restaurant; the holiday has nothing to do with love. We know, because we're the National Restaurant Association.

(I'm just making fun here, but the actual questions, which can be viewed online, are leading in more devious ways. An expert on research statistics would pull them apart immediately.)

This press release strikes while the iron is hot, given that the holiday is almost upon us. The organization has already striven to convince consumers that going to a restaurant on Valentine's Day is your number-one priority, even though empirical evidence suggests that it's absolutely the worst day to go to a restaurant (dumbed-down prix fixes featuring red foodstuffs, jacked-up prices, overcrowded and overbooked restaurants, deafening noise levels), with the possible exception of New Year's Eve.

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