Applebee’s introduced Loaded Fajitas to its restaurants nationwide with a pharmaceutical-style video spot, coined “sizzletonin” and described as
“a condition caused when your fajita lacks bacon and queso.” The campaign was met with derision on social media and the company quickly deleted all campaign assets.
In a press release, the company said that its new menu item is bound to brighten anyone’s day, joking that it was “coming to the aid of American affected by low sizzletonin, characterized by symptoms of cold hands, lack of fullness and sudden bouts of sarcasm. Many social media users felt it trivialized mental illness.
The flop could worsen the already struggling Applebee’s. Applebee’s spent millions of dollars on modernizing its restaurants with fire grills and redesigns as part of its “comprehensive business transformation.” Likely in an attempt to win over millennial diners.
Applebee’s erased every trace of the Sizzletonin campaign across its social platforms since its release (you can still view the commercial here). But the negative reactions remain, particularly on Twitter.
One user demanded to know if the campaign planned to donate a percentage of Loaded Fajitas purchases to organizations that help those afflicted with “legitimate” mental health disorders.
”Over the past few years, the brand’s set out to reposition or reinvent Applebee’s as a modern bar and grill in overt pursuit of a more youthful and affluent demographic with a more independent or even sophisticated dining mindset, including a clear pendulum swing towards millennials,” John Cywinski, Applebee’s brand president, said in a recent call with investors, according to Business Insider.
In 2017, Applebee’s closed over 100 locations and another 80 the following year. What’s worse, over 160 locations across 15 states were hit with a point of sale (POS) breach in 2018. Additionally, 60 women filed sexual harassmentcomplaints against Applebee’s and IHOP restaurants, as reported by Vox.
This month, Burger King also received backlash for playing on mental health in its campaign to launch “Real Meals,” limited edition boxes featuring its WHOPPER in various moods like “Pissed Meal” and “Blue Meal.” But, Burger King did partner with Mental Health America for the campaign and donated an undisclosed amount to the organization.