Walmart is the biggest corporation on the planet. The aggressive discount retailer has run countless mom-and-pop stores out of business, been criticized for using overseas sweatshops to make its products, and tagged for hiring illegal immigrants and making them sleep in the back of stores.
So when it decides to launch a new TV advertising campaign to promote its premium range of USDA Choice steak products, where does it go? That's right: Paradise Valley. More specifically, El Chorro Lodge, the 75-year-old Valley landmark with a reputation for mediocre food tolerated mainly by the restaurant's aging clientele of locals whose familiarity with Walmart most likely starts and stops at its stock prices.
But let's not lay all the blame on Walmart. Someone had to give the green light to let them into their restaurant, rent the space, and make it appear that El Chorro diners were saying things about Walmart steaks like, "It was one of the best filets I've ever had."
A source tells me the steak taste-test commercial was filmed at El Chorro about a month ago, when Walmart decided to use the location after an advertising executive from the company dined there and liked its central location and views of Camelback Mountain. The source went on to say that Walmart rented the location, scenes from the commercial were filmed during a private Walmart event with its invited guests, and that El Chorro does not serve Walmart steaks.
But the love fest between Walmart and El Chorro doesn't stop at one advertising gimmick. In two subsequent videos, El Chorro executive chef Charles Kassels talks about the restaurant's history and his support of the big-box retailer's steaks, and he gives cooking tips for how to prepare a great one.
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Perhaps the biggest question in this conundrum is for El Chorro, and that's: "Why? Why did you do this?" Certainly it can't be in hopes for exposure or additional customers. After all, most Walmart shoppers have better odds of working at El Chorro than dining there, and it's likely the restaurant's current customer base wouldn't even make the association. Maybe its the quick buck El Chorro made on renting its space, or perhaps there's an underlying association between Walmart's corporate executives and El Chorro's principal owner, Jacquie Dorrance, who is the wife of Bennett Dorrance, a major shareholder in the Campbell Soup Co., which his family founded.
Whatever the reason, Walmart and El Chorro's "Steak-Over" campaign might be business as usual for the world's biggest corporation, but it tastes like a bad idea any way you cut it for the Valley's El Chorro.