Hungry for a hoax

About the author

Maud started out as a consumer journalist with Good Housekeeping magazine and then moved into PR working with Hill and Knowlton, Nexus Communications, Richmond Towers and Slimming World.  Now, she is a food PR consultant, specialising in media relations. FCIPR

Take three ingredients – the trendy location of London’s Shoreditch, a pop up restaurant called Deluxe (?) and a surprise reveal. Mix with a touch of celebrity and cook an intriguing menu. Serve as a hoax.

Lidl’s latest publicity stunt tackles perceptions head on by hoodwinking diners into eating food from its Christmas range at a trendy pop up ‘non restaurant’ restaurant with proceeds going to charity. The purpose? To change perceptions that Lidl equals low cost, low quality – to Lidl has top quality food at a low price.

I ran a training course for Lidl’s store managers a few weeks ago and was blown away by their passion and belief in the brand. A brand that came to my own attention during the recession yet it was not a place that I chose to shop at.

My perception has been slowly changing. First, some friends recommended Lidl’s Prosecco. Then the word on the street was that its best kept secret was the fabulous wines. Then muesli, orange juice and smoked salmon came to my attention. Recently, I decided to wander into my local Lidl store and was surprised by the bakery and fruit and vegetable displays.

Changing people’s perceptions takes time. We often need to hear, see and read about something several times before we start to trust and believe it. And of course, the communication has to match up to the product promise.
In our PR courses, students learn about communication theory so that they can understand how PR communication can be used to get attention and influence what people think or do. As we’ve seen from Lidl, publicity stunts can generate awareness and get us talking about something so that we start to consider another viewpoint.

The pop up restaurant is not a new idea. In 2013, Lidl tried the same stunt in Sweden, with an unbelievably cheap Michelin star menu at a restaurant called Dill (an anagram of Lidl). Would this have worked this time around in London? I don’t think so.

Pure decadence and self-indulgence is out. But throw in some charitable giving, with proceeds from Deluxe going to CLIC Sargent and ask diners to keep Lidl’s surprise a secret – and we have a collaboration that works. A Twitter search shows that the secret is revealed to diners when they get the bill. They enjoyed joining in with the hoax because they have loved the food – smoked reindeer with pickled blackberries, tagliatelle with lobster and truffle oil, pears in red wine with dark chocolate.

Sounds delicious – yes. But will those foodie Londoners who dine at Deluxe be persuaded to give Lidl a go? Will anyone who hears or reads about it love the hoax idea enough to start believing that Lidl’s food really is of a restaurant quality? The proof is in the evaluation.
@Deluxe_Dining #LidlSurprises