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All The Rules Restaurants Have To Follow On 'Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives'
First rule of Flavortown? Don't say the word "Flavortown" on camera.
Since 2006, we've watched Guy Fieri travel coast to coast visiting some of the country's greatest establishments for Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It's one of the biggest shows on the Food Network, and with over 648 episodes and counting, it doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. But what does it take to become a Triple D-featured spot and how does it all work?
Both Fieri and producers have spilled behind-the-scenes secrets about the show throughout its 42 seasons—from who picks the restaurants to how you can tell if the host really likes a dish to what happens to these eateries after the cameras leave (spoiler: a little thing called the Triple D Effect!). Keep reading to learn about all things Flavortown and find out what really happens when Fieri rolls into your town.
Per the Food Network's website, if you want to suggest your establishment for an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, it's as easy as reaching out to the show directly. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org and include your contact information.
One of the things that really piques production's interest—and Fieri's—is the story behind a restaurant. In fact, the host told the Food Network Magazine that a place has to have "food, story, and character" to be selected.
Although a lot of the show's scouting is done by producers, viewers can suggest places by email. So if you have a favorite local spot, give 'em a shout-out!
Whether a spot was submitted by fans online or found by producers, there are multiple interview rounds prior to filming.
After all, that's the first step in getting cast! "I was not familiar at all," Niki Stavrou, owner of Victor's 1959 Cafe in Minneapolis told Twin City Business magazine of DDD. "They were interested in featuring us, possibly. They emphasize that. So I did two or three phone interviews and eventually they sent a producer out in person."
The production team compiles all of their research and puts it into a list of options about two months before filming starts—then the host makes the final decision about where to go.
With so many restaurants clamoring for a spot on the show, many wonder what it takes to catch Fieri's eye. "Guy will spot a unique ingredient or a way of preparing a dish that's different and chooses that," former executive producer Frank Matson told People.
The show loves spots that cook from scratch. Painstaking barbecue methods and secret family recipes have been known to entice Fieri as well.
After a restaurant is chosen, the show works with the owners to build a storyline; it's often the background of the establishment that makes each place so unique.
Some have estimated they spent as much as $12,000 to $15,000 in total expenses. But it almost always pays off in free publicity.
Despite all of the research and countless interviews done beforehand, producers have been known to axe an eatery upon arrival. "We have gotten to town and canceled places because the key to the show is that they have to meet that bar," creator and former producer David Page told Heavy Table.
Page also told Heavy Table the show operated with two 10-person crews that shot at multiple locations in a single day in 2009—though that number may have grown since.
Page told Heavy Table that circa 2009 the show shot at seven restaurants in every city they visited.
The show typically films for two days, although some establishments have said they were closed for as long as four days. During this time, the crew captures B-roll and films the cooking segments with Fieri.
Why? Ted Casper, co-owner of Casper and Runyon's Nook in St. Paul, told Twin Cities Business, "[Fieri] wanted to try everything on the menu, just about. Then they decided what to feature."
Casper told Twin Cities Business he cooked more items for Fieri than what was seen on the show. According to People, the host has the final say about what dishes are featured.
Since Fieri is (both figuratively and literally) the tastemaker of the show, he says dishes with liver and eggs are a no-go—hence why they're rarely on the show.
Since he can sometimes film at three or four restaurants in one day, Fieri drinks green juice when he's not tasting menu items. Gotta save room for the important stuff!
No, he's not trying to be rude. The Food Network host simply prefers to introduce himself right before the shoot, so that the interactions are as authentic as possible.
Although the crew can be holed up in the restaurant for days setting up equipment and capturing footage, filming the cooking segment with Fieri only takes half a day.
The best on-screen interactions are with chefs who can serve up witty banter right along with Fieri. But mind his catchphrases, like "Flavortown" or "funkalicious." Those are for the host!
"I've been around forever doing this, so I know where they're going to miss it. And, I'm not there to tell them how to change their restaurant—that's not my job," Fieri said on The Moment with Brian Koppelman in 2018. "But if they ever ask, I always want to offer advice to them if I can, and help them out. I mean, as we all do as chefs, we all support one another, and we all try to help each other grow."
Instead, use this method *fans think* is the secret. They believe the dead giveaway is whether Fieri takes an immediate second bite or not—the unofficial sign of an A+ dish.
The host admits he reacts differently to dishes—and he isn't afraid to cut the restaurant from the show if he isn't a fan either. "There is a difference between liking something, loving something, and losing your mind," he said on The Late Late Show with James Corden. "But if I don't like it, I'm not going to tell you to go there. You won't see the place."
Fieri's known to mess around with restaurant owners while filming. "I say to them once in a while, 'Do you really think that was a good idea?' and the chef is just like, 'Oh gosh, he's gonna shut me down!' I'm like, 'You're right, it was a dynamite idea!'" he joked on The Late Late Show with James Corden.
Hey, it's important that the story arc production sculpted comes to life on-camera. But Fieri is known to improv and say things off-the-cuff to keep the show interesting.
You know those customers who sing the restaurant's praises? They're loyal patrons who've been invited by the restaurant to film those scenes, not just random people. Makes sense!
The host only interviews a few of them, and the rest of the sound bites are pulled from interviews conducted by producers.
Fieri's red convertible Chevy Camaro makes an appearance in every episode, but the car, which is worth more than $100,000, is off-limits to everyone on set—even him! According to Insider, Fieri doesn't drive the car. It's shipped in a trailer and he's only filmed opening and closing the door.
Fieri works closely with Make-a-Wish and often invites families from the organization to tapings. "I know that heartache and I see that, and if there's anything I can do to help enlighten or empower those kids, I want to do it," he told Delish.
Some restaurant owners have said that they waited for as long as a year before their episode finally aired.
Restaurant owners can't give away which menu items will be featured on the show until the episode is out. Because...spoiler alert!
There's a term for the boost in business a restaurant gets after being featured on the show: the Triple D Effect. "They told us to get ready," Josh Thoma, founder of Smack Shack in Minneapolis, told Twin City Business. "I was like, 'I got it.' I did not get it." Thoma says his sales and customer counts were up by 500 percent a month after the show aired.
The Triple D Effect is real—even the very first restaurant featured on the show (Bayway Diner in Linden, New Jersey) saw a massive surge in customers. So much so that the owner, Mike Giunta, was able to add an outdoor seating area, a food truck, and a catering business.
"We can always tell the day after our episode has been re-run," Sarah Sanneh of Brooklyn's Pies 'n' Thighs told Thrillist: "Like, all of a sudden we'll be slammed on some random Tuesday, then we'll realize, 'Oh, they just replayed our show...that makes sense.'"
Some of these sites organize restaurants by city, state, and region, making Triple D road trips easy. "People come here about once every other week that are on these restaurant crawls across the country. They roll up in their RVs and pile out," Adam Sappington, owner of The Country Cat in Portland, Oregon, told Thrillist.
In what some may call a badge of honor for being featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, the star leaves behind a stencil of his head that says "Guy Fieri ate here."
Throughout all of the seasons, Fieri has visited countless establishments—but only his favorites make it into his books.
Despite the influx in customers, there are a number of restaurants featured on Triple D that have closed permanently. It just goes to show that there's no guarantee to success—even if you make it on the show.