Marketing Gimmicks

King of the Shill: SHO Shaun Hergatt

Newish Frenchish restaurant SHO Shaun Hergatt hasn’t been winning much praise, but it hasn’t been panned, either. Most critics enjoy the food but deplore the corporate atmosphere, the overblown touches, and the globe-trotting pretension. Most recently, Pete Wells found the place well-meaning but try-hard-y. So how did the restaurant deal with the aforementioned criticism? In the most well-meaning and try-hard-y way: a shill offensive.

Open Table has 72 reviews for SHO Shaun, and a whopping 45 of them give the restaurant five stars. A Grub Street reader thought some of the reviews were suspiciously shilly, so we investigated. Our findings? Many of them were clearly written by some underpaid SHO employee.

Choice excerpts:

This was a lovely experience. The prawn stuffed zucchini flowers were amazing. My roaster lobster was also excellent. And they really put out a spread of goodies at the end, including delectable chocolate caramel truffles!

Excellent food, good ambiance, wonderful service. We had an early dinner reservation before a show, and the staff took great care of us. Highly recommended.

The food was wonderful, the service was great and the space was beautiful.

The use of the shill isn’t surprising. Graced with an actually talented chef, SHO Shaun Hergatt doesn’t really deserve the scorn it receives. But that’s what you get for opening a restaurant built for puns — Sho Nuff, Sho Stopper, She’s Sho Heavy, Why Sho Sherious? — and better times. Predictably, the corporate Hydra-like owners of the Setai looked to go viral with their marketing, and what better way than an Astroturf upswell?

What is surprising is the shills themselves. Though the 72 reviews exhibit more linguistic similarity than taped Iranian confessions, there are glimpses of Hemingway in the declarative sentences and the attention to detail.

In short, excellent shill, great description, wonderful execution.

King of the Shill: SHO Shaun Hergatt