Now in its 42nd season, Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives became a smash hit on the Food Network. Hosted by celebrity chef Guy Fieri, the TV show has featured hundreds of restaurants over the years of filming. Of course, the restaurants receive massive exposure which helps bring in business. But did you know that after long hours of interviewing, staging and filming, the restaurants aren't paid a dime? Here's what really happened when restaurants signed up to appear on Diners, Drive-Ins And Dives.
To Appear On The Show, Restaurants Apply Online
How does Guy Fieri find all of these restaurants? Easy-- the restaurants come to him. Restaurant owners can submit an application online through the Food Network website to appear on the show.
If you don't own a restaurant but have one that you want to recommend, you can also apply. Many regulars have recommended restaurants throughout the show's 33 seasons. This way, the show never runs out of delicious restaurants to visit.
Initially, The Producers Pitched The Restaurants
When Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, also known as Triple D first aired, the producers pitched the concept to restaurants, hoping that they'd be willing to appear on the show. In fact, Guy Fieri did not know enough diners to recommend. David Page, a former NBC and ABC news producer, recommended many of the restaurants for the first season.
Niki Stavrou, the owner of Victor's 1959 Cafe in Minneapolis said that the producers reached out to her to appear on the show. And she's not the only one. "If it's funky, we'll find it," Fieri said about the featured diners.
Afterward, There Is A Long Vetting Process
Once a restaurant has a producer's attention, they have to undergo a long vetting process. Stavrou told Twin Cities Business that she received two or three phone interviews before a producer went to the restaurant in person. Throughout this process, there was no guarantee that she would appear on the show.
Other owners have mentioned sending recipes and photos of their food to producers. This vetting process can take weeks or months. According to Trish Appleby, co-owner of Donatelli's, she spent 12 hours on the phone with producers.
The Show And Owners Create A Story Together
Months before shooting, writers will contact the restaurant owners to create a story. This story covers some basics about the restaurant: how it started, the food it serves, and what the customers like about it.
Despite this happening months before shooting, this is still not a guarantee that the restaurant will appear on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. According to Thrillist, some of these stories (and their restaurants) are scrapped. Others are approved by the producers and sent to Fieri for final approval.
Food Is Filmed The Day Before Fieri Arrives
The day before Fieri arrives to the restaurant, crew members visit for some preparations. They set up the lighting and film much of the food and cooking. This is called the "b-roll" and is necessary for each episode.
In Triple D, Fieri narrates over these clips, talking about the restaurant's reputation and their most popular dishes. However, he does not narrate these clips until after shooting. This means that the restaurant has to cook their entire menu before Fieri even shows up.
All Introductions Are Unscripted
When Fieri first enters the restaurant, he introduces himself to the restaurant, known as "the stand-up." This is unscripted. "I hate sounding contrived," Fieri told People.
Fieri will rehearse what he wants to say in his head, but that's it. As for the restaurant owners, they need to prepare to greet Fieri as they would any other person. This is the first time Fieri is meeting the staff; he does not meet them before the cameras roll.
After The Intro, People Have To Follow A Script
Although the introduction is improvised, the rest of the episode is scripted. There is some improvisation, such as Fieri's reactions to the meals. But most of it follows a strict format: introductions, explanations of the dishes, customer reactions, etc.
This script is worked out between the restaurant owners and writers months ahead of time. Employees do not have to memorize it, either. The production crew will direct them on what to do next, and the chefs mainly need to cook.
The Staff Have To Keep Interviewing After Fieri Leaves
When Fieri leaves the set, the cameras stay. Producers stick around to interview the restaurant staff one-on-one. Later, these clips are interspersed with the rest of the footage from Fieri's time there.
Restaurant staff has to prepare for multiple interviews in one day. This is on top of the interviews and interactions with Fieri, meaning that they have a busy day ahead despite being closed. But it will all pay off when they get more customers afterward.
Employees Do Not Get Paid To Appear On The Show
One of the biggest worries for restaurant owners is that they do not get paid for their time on the show. Since they have to close up shop and spend extra money on filmed food, they initially lose a lot of revenue.
Fortunately, this agreement goes both ways: Restaurants don't get paid for their time, but they cannot pay to get on the show, either. The producers and Fieri choose restaurants based on their story and food quality.
The Restaurants Waste A LOT Of Food
Since few customers enter the store during filming, most of the food you see on screen is wasted. Chefs have to cook food so that the crew can film their process and final dishes. Over two days of filming, this results in a lot of wasted meals.
"I think it cost us nearly $15,000 in wasted product and costs associated with cleaning," said Eric Goerdt, the owner of Northern Waters Smokehaus in Minnesota. That's a huge sacrifice for the show!
Restaurants Receive Very Short Notice Beforehand
Although the screening process takes months, restaurant owners often receive a confirmation right before filming. Andrea Wakefield, the owner of Robino's Restaurant, said that she got the news only a week beforehand.
From there, the owners have to rush. They need to close their restaurant, order extra food, and prepare their staff. Filming comes and goes in a blur. Staff can also feel overworked during this period, which makes the filming process difficult for restaurant owners.
Chefs Must Prepare Ingredients Beforehand
The film crew is not willing to wait for chefs to prepare meals. Restaurants must have all of the food chopped, sorted, and prepared by the time the crew arrives. This means that the chefs start working hours before production.
Like a regular restaurant day, chefs have to prepare multiple portions of food. Most end up cooking the entire menu several times over the course of the two-day filming period. The rest gets tossed and replaced the next day.
The Restaurant Has To Close For At Least Half A Week
Once the producers have decided on a restaurant, they ask the owner to close it for a few days. Usually, filming takes two days, but restaurants often stay closed for longer than that to prepare and clean up. "We were closed for four days," said Josh Thoma, the founder of Smack Shack in Minneapolis.
Many restaurant owners are concerned about this lost business, such as Ann Kim, the co-owner of Pizzeria Lola who almost didn't accept the deal because of this. But her investment came back with increased business.
Chefs Have To Cook More Than They Expect
Although Fieri picks which meals he wants to eat, he is not picky. He often wants to try everything. "I think we cooked every item on the menu three times with Guy," Ted Casper, the co-owner of Casper and Run- yon's Nook, told Twin Cities Business.
Fieri wants to try everything, but that doesn't mean that everything will be featured. After filming, the editors decide which meals to show. The tastiest or most interesting usually make the cut.
Fieri Makes The Final Decision
Although the producers find the restaurants, Fieri decides which ones he will visit. During an interview with People, Fieri said that he picks every restaurant and dish that he will eat while there. After all, he's the one who will be trying every dish.
That being said, the list he picks from is curated. The producers will choose restaurants and dishes up to two months in advance. After that, Fieri will choose from the list, and the deal will be finalized.
Only Handmade Food Makes The Cut
During an interview with Heavy Table, executive producer David Page said that only restaurants with handmade food make the cut. "If it's hamburgers, it better be handmade hamburgers. It better be done from scratch," he explained.
"It's not like we want to walk into a joint that has 75 percent frozen Sysco pre-prepared product, but they make two specials a week...That’s not good enough." The show truly values high-quality food, a wonderful environment, and delicious meals.
Chefs Will Sometimes Change Recipes For Fieri
While watching Triple D, viewers might believe that Fieri likes every dish he comes across. But that is not true. Sometimes, Fieri will not like a dish, in which case chefs will alter the recipe for him.
Sometimes, Fieri will recommend an alteration to make the dish more to his taste. Restaurant owners and chefs are required to let him do so. After all, he is the boss and host of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
According To Rumor, Fieri Might Walk Out On Some Restaurants
According to some stories, Fieri will walk out on some restaurants. If he arrives at a diner and doesn't like the look, smell, or cleanliness, he will refuse to film there. Although the network has never confirmed this, restaurant owners still take it into account.
"We heard the stories," Trish Appleby, the co-owner of Donatelli's, told Twin Cities Business. “So you never take it for granted.” Restaurants will often close a day beforehand to clean and spruce up their appearance.
Fieri Will Not Eat Certain Dishes
Like everyone, Fieri hates certain dishes. If a restaurant's signature dish is something that he doesn't like, he probably won't eat it--no matter how popular it is. During an interview with People, Fieri said that his no-gos are liver and eggs.
"I eat [eggs] in dressings, but sunny-side up, over-easy or scrambled? No, thank you," he said. Even if an egg is part of a restaurant's most popular dish, it will not appear on the show.
If A Writer Recommends A Restaurant, The Show Will Find It
Beyond recommendations, the show producers will find restaurants through food critics. These writers have tasted every restaurant in the area. Sometimes, a producer will contact one of these writers for ideas.
While hunting down diners, producers have one main criterion: It must be something off the wall. They tend to prefer fusion restaurants, but anything that is local, unique, or unexpected has a higher chance of appearing on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. If a critic rates a restaurant highly, they will have a higher chance.
Fans Must Approve Of The Diner, Too
Season 2, Episode 8 of Triple D was titled "Viewer's Choice." In it, Fieri visits restaurants that were recommended by his viewers. This is not exclusive to one episode; the show's staff will often take suggestions from their fans.
During an interview with Town Square Delaware, Fieri said, "You know, we like to listen to our viewers." Whether it's talking during meet-and-greets, tweets, or emailing the show, the staff enjoy hearing about popular and unique restaurants.
The Crew Often Films Multiple Restaurants In One Day
When a restaurant gets filmed for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, it will likely be one of many that Fieri is visiting. According to executive producer David Page, the crew plans trips around geological location, not episode order. This means that Fieri might visit seven restaurants in one day.
Despite this, filming in one restaurant might take several hours. According to Twin Cities Business, Fieri's visit to one restaurant might take half the day. If this is his second or third restaurant, he won't be as hungry as expected.
Don't Forget About The Film Crew
During the busy filming process, restaurants also have to deal with the filming crew. Usually, a ten-person film crew works in each restaurant. If Fieri is filming at multiple locations per day, each restaurant will get its own ten-person crew.
This crew-- which features camera operators, lighting specialists, and producers-- stays at the restaurant for a day or two. They will capture the food and cooking, interview staff, and stage certain shots. Depending on the restaurant, there might be 20 or 30 people in the kitchen at one time.
It's Not Just The Camaro That Arrives
Viewers expect Fieri to roll up to a restaurant in his 1968 Camaro. In reality, that's not the only car that will park outside of the restaurant. Fieri actually arrives in a separate car escorted by a driver. Meanwhile, the crew arrives in their own van.
And the Camaro? It's trailered to every location. This means that the restaurant needs to clear its parking spots so that the entire film team (and the car) can arrive.
Restaurants With Unique Dishes Have The Upper Hand
If a restaurant has a unique dish on their menu, they have a higher likelihood of being picked for Triple D. According to executive producer Frank Matson, Fieri is more likely to choose a restaurant with a unique dish. And if he does, that meal will most definitely appear on TV.
"Guy will spot a unique ingredient or a way of preparing a dish that's different and chooses that," Matson told People. Because of this, many fans and food writers recommend diners through their unusual dishes.
Only Loyal Regulars Are Allowed On Set
If the restaurants close for a day, why are there customers in Triple D episodes? These are all loyal regulars who were invented to participate in the episode. According to executive producer Frank Matson, the owner decides who to invite.
Along with the restaurant employees, the patrons also have to keep the show a secret until the season airs. In the meantime, they receive free meals and an interview with Guy Fieri. So it's well worth it!
Some Restaurants Should Expect Special Guests
For some restaurants, Guy Fieri wasn't the only star to grace their kitchen for a day. Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives has featured several celebrity guest stars, including Matthew McConaughey, Adam Sandler, Kid Rock, Chris Rock, and Steve Harwell of Smash Mouth.
These cameos are planned well in advance, so the restaurant employees know who is coming. But some employees might get starstruck by a surprise celebrity in their kitchen, trying the food with Guy Fieri.
Staff Have To Wait Several Months For Their Episode To Air
After the episode gets filmed, it has to undergo a long editing process. Restaurant employees wait six months for it to air on average. Depending on which episode they get, they might wait even longer. Some owners waited for a whole year.
As the employees wait, they expect bigger business after the episode airs. Then it skyrockets. "[Fieri] told us to be ready for a 200% increase in business," explained Bufkin. "Believe it or not, that's what happened."
Employees Are Sworn To Secrecy After Filming
Like many other reality shows, the restaurant employees featured are sworn to secrecy until the episode airs. For months, they have to act like nothing special happened. This is guaranteed to prevent spoilers.
After the episode airs, though, it is guaranteed to rerun at least a few times. This will boost business even more. "We can always tell the day after our episode has been re-run," said Sarah Sanneh, the co-owner of Pies 'n' Thighs. Business drastically increases after an episode rerun.
Restaurant Owners Need To Make Room On Their Walls
Before the film crew leaves, the restaurant has to do one last thing: hang up an artwork of Fieri. Every diner featured on the show now has a spray painted artwork of Guy Fieri's head, including his autograph and the Food Network symbol.
Believe it or not, some restaurant owners didn't like it. "At first it was like, 'Oh man, I wish he hadn't done that,'" said Adam Sappington, owner of the The Country Cat. "But I can't be mad...People take their picture in front of it, and it's like another notch in their Triple D belt."