People waiting on line(l+r), Keith Lee(c)

@keith_lee125/Tiktok

Everything you need to know about TikTok food critic Keith Lee’s viral restaurant tour

Lee exposed the bad rules and customer service of Atlanta’s dining scene.

 

Audra Schroeder

IRL

Over the weekend, the Atlanta food scene was turned upside down by TikToker Keith Lee, and some restaurant owners were left scrambling thanks to his viral “effect.”

Lee, an amateur food critic with more than 14 million followers on TikTok, is known for his front-seat reviews and food hacks. But shortly after he and his family arrived in Atlanta for a “family food tour,” which he’d announced on Instagram, some negative reviews started rolling in. And so did the memes.

Who is Keith Lee?

Lee is a former MMA fighter who pivoted to TikTok food critic during the pandemic and has seen massive popularity. In March, he told Today: “I’m a foodie. I think I brought back natural foodies in the space of food critics.”

He typically tries the food in his car and rates the dishes 1 through 10. A review from Lee can have real-world consequences for businesses, the majority of them Black-owned. He also made his mark on Chipotle after his quesadilla hack went viral earlier this year. (Lee did not respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.)

But the Atlanta food series veered from Lee’s usual formula, due to long wait times, odd rules, poor customer service, and restrictions on takeout, as he explained in a recap video.

@keith_lee125 Atlanta Food Tour Recap 💕 would you try it ? 💕 #foodcritic ♬ original sound – Keith Lee

In his reviews of two restaurants, the Real Milk and Honey and Old Lady Gang, Lee said that he didn’t get to try any food.

He explained that at Old Lady Gang, he was given two different wait times when he asked and when his mother asked and declined to eat there. Kandi Burruss, the owner, apologized for the bad experience but reiterated that the restaurant doesn’t offer takeout on weekends due to the volume of customers.

But the Real Milk and Honey proved more of an issue.

What is the Real Milk and Honey?

The Real Milk and Honey is a College Park brunch spot, not to be confused with Milk and Honey, another Atlanta restaurant that was targeted during the backlash.

One of the issues that Lee called out is its extensive “house rules,” which can be found on its website and went viral on TikTok earlier this year. Lee’s family was initially told the restaurant was “closed for deep cleaning.”

As backlash mounted on social media, the official Real Milk and Honey TikTok account circulated a now-deleted video where people laughed about not knowing who Lee is, which only added to the bad vibes.

@keith_lee125 The Real Milk & Honey taste test 💕 would you try it ? 💕 #foodcritic ♬ original sound – Keith Lee

This week, however, the Real Milk and Honey posted an apology, stating that the house rules are “outdated” and will be updated.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CzD9R9mgbUt/?igshid

Many people who live in or are from the city claimed the issues Lee encountered are specific to Atlanta. Cardi B, whose husband Offset is from Atlanta, said in a recent Instagram Live: “I feel like Atlanta restaurants, they don’t like to make money. I feel like they don’t like people, they don’t like they customers. They just don’t f*cking like you.”

In a more recent TikTok, Lee says his family’s safety is now a concern after the Atlanta visit, and, “That’s where I draw the line at.”

What is the Keith Lee effect?

TikTok has pushed this drama into so many users’ TikTok For You Pages that people in other countries are now invested in the Keith Lee drama. But this series has highlighted Lee’s influence. A positive review, or a negative one, can have the “Keith Lee effect” on businesses.

That was evident in one TikTok, posted before the Atlanta trip, featuring a Las Vegas food truck whose business increased after a positive review. Chicago restaurant Cleo’s posted about the Keith Lee effect after getting high ratings. Las Vegas pizzeria Frankensons also got the Lee bump.

@keith_lee125

Champs Wings And Things 24 Hour taste test 💕 would you try it ? 💕

♬ original sound – Keith Lee

Memes about Lee’s influence were also circulated.

“Restaurant owners training their staff to recognize 4 generations of Keith Lee’s family,” one user wrote alongside a stock image of a detective giving a briefing.

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