Good Food Trumps Good Marketing On ‘Food Court Wars’

Food Court Wars spiced up the Burnsville Mall’s food court with Slum Dogz and Pimento Jamaican Kitchen. Siblings Aaron Skoglund, who was adopted from India, and Kirsten Shabaz decided to create Slum Dogz as a tribute to Aaron’s Indian heritage. There concept centered around adding Indian flavors to hot dogs. Yoni Reinharz and Jamaican-born Tomme Beevas from Pimento Jamaican Kitchen were also bringing the heat with jerk chicken and other Jamaican specialties.

As usual, Day 1’s challenge involved trying to please an important group of mall goers. Tyler Florence announced that the two teams had to impress kids and their parents. Kids don’t like heat, so both teams attempted to tone down the spiciness in their signature dishes. Slum Dogz was a little more successful, but barely.

While Slum Dogz failed to make hot dogs because the casings weren’t cooperating, Aaron and Kirsten took their signature recipe and made meatballs. Many kids didn’t like the heat in the meatballs, but tolerated it because it was less spicy than Pimento’s jerk chicken. Aaron and Kirsten’s strategy basically was to win kids over with good old mac and cheese, which worked. Slum Dogz may have won the challenge by one vote, but the parents preferred Yoni and Tomme’s jerk chicken and coconut rice with beans.

For winning, Slum Dogz received ad space on the mall’s billboards. Supposedly, 64,000 people would see the ads as they shopped. The only problem is the billboards are actually in the mall and, unless you work there, no one is going back to the mall two days later just to taste the new food court kiosk.

Day 2 took place at the Minnesota Zoo. This was Slum Dogz and Pimento’s chance to draw customers in for opening day. The only problem is Slum Dogz stole the show. Aaron and Kirsten decided to hold a hot dog eating contest and hold a raffle for an opportunity to feed a giraffe. Pimento, whose food the crowd preferred, just stood back and watched. Yoni and Tomme had no way to draw attention to their stand other than the scent of good food.

In past shows, it always seemed like the producers created marketing tools and told the contestants that one team would have one opportunity, such as throwing the first pitch at a ball game, while the other team would get equal time by being interviewed on the jumbotron. Either the producers don’t help the teams or they were actively trying to sabotage Pimento, which it certainly appeared that way.

First, Yonni and Tomme had no way to get attention, other than their stand, at the zoo. Then, on opening day, Pimento was given a large batch of plantains for opening day, but half of them were not ripe and couldn’t be used. It’s not like the two teams go grocery shopping and pick out their own food. Someone on the production staff messed up big time and ended up giving Pimento half of the amount needed. Instead of trying to cook unripe plantains or completely giving up on the side dish altogether, Pimento cooked what they had and announced to everyone when they had run out of plantains.

Going into opening day, Slum Dogz won people over with marketing, even though their hot dogs were always dry. Pimento had good food as their only marketing tool. Everything seemed to go smoothly for Aaron and Kirsten, except for a couple second delay in opening. However, Slum Dogz still hadn’t figured out how to make sure they didn’t serve dry hot dogs. Pimento had to deal with the aforementioned plantain problem, which Yoni and Tomme handled well. Despite having better marketing, Slum Dogz lost to better food. Pimento Jamaican Kitchen will open at the Burnsville Mall on August 11th.

About Allison Lips

I am the Toastmasters District 83 Public Relations manager and President of Freehold Phrasers.

Posted on August 5, 2013, in Cable, Food Network, Reality TV and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. This is a spectacularly biased reporting of events. For instance, Slum Dogz didn’t have ANY heat in the spices used. It was a hint of Gara Marsala inspired flavors but no heat. A place that serves hotdogs and a hotdog eating contest is a no brainer. What would an equivalent event be for jerk chicken? Pimento also had a drawing to feed an animal but because it was the black bears, you can’t exactly have interaction with that animal. They just dropped food into the enclosure. I was also at the Burnsville Mall and those ads for Slum Dogz where not prominent nor eye catching as they were electronic and cycled through other ads that most people would ignore. I overheard several people say that they came from the zoo event the day before because they wanted more hotdogs. The biggest disadvantage that Slum Dogz had was their location. No matter which set if stairs one would take to descend into the food court, one could not see Slum Dogz. They were behind a giant pillar/fireplace from one set and not in line of sight from the other. Pimento’s location was also more eyecatching with the Jamaican colors and decorations. They also had a larger area to prepare and serve they’re food. In Jamaica, they use green plantains to fry. I was confused as to why Tomme didn’t seem to know that. Perhaps it had something to do with his Jamaican “accent” seemed to come and go over the course of filming. As for reporting that the hotdogs were “always dry”, my wife and I had several hotdogs and they were juicy. I had juice running down my chin from eating them. I did have one dry one that seemed to just be overcooked. It is interesting that the author seems to have not actually been at these events nor did research for this blog. I would be embarrassed if I were the author of such half-truths and fabrications that are so easily disproved.

    • Micah,
      This is purely a review of the episode. It may be biased, for which I apologize, but I am going off of what was aired on Food Network. Reality TV show editing distorts events. I didn’t know that Pimento had a drawing for black bears. Thank you for clearing that up. It seems like the producers do provide the marketing for the contestants.

      Since I don’t live anywhere near Minnesota, I am not able to taste the food and do not know the layout of the Burnsville Mall. It is entirely possible that both restaurants served good food. All I had to go off of was what I saw.

      I also found it odd that Tomme’s accent came and went throughout the episode.

      • Perhaps this article should be taken down or archived then as it certainly doesn’t add anything to the events and people can view the episode themselves. The editing in “reality” shows is pretty confusing at times and I can’t blame you for not knowing what really happened if you weren’t there. I do wonder, though, what the point of this article is then.

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