Huge fast food brand likely behind viral 'TTC French toast guy' stunt in Toronto
Toronto's newly-famous 'French toast guy' is a fraud, I'm afraid, contrary to what you may have read in local news articles that some marketer can now use in presentations to show off the effectiveness of their "free earned media" strategy.
The individual in question started popping up in videos around the web last Wednesday, when multiple TTC riders noticed a lone man eating French toast with a knife and fork on his own little table at bus stations, subway stations, and even aboard public transit vehicles.
Equipped with full-sized condiments, fancy cloth napkins, pristine white table linens, an expensive-looking thermal bag, a tiny bell, a red apron, and, in some cases, a silver serving lid and white chef's toque, the man was hard to miss...
A bit too hard to miss, if you ask me.
First off, the guy was clean-cut, cogent, unnaturally friendly for a Torontonian, and perfectly positioned for anyone to film his activities from various angles, regardless of where he popped up. It was almost as if he were trying to get into photos for the gram (or wherever.)
At one point, I considered that this might be some sort of public art performance intended to delight commuters during an otherwise dreary stretch of winter. But the vibes were off. It was all too constructed. Too perfect even for someone who merely hoped to go viral and see his own face on the news.
The smoking gun for me was the absence of visible logos anywhere; the man was dressed head-to-toe in what appeared to be brand-new, unbranded clothing.
I defy anyone to find me a single TTC rider without at least one logo on their person somewhere, whether it be on a coat, a bag, a shoe, a hat... if you find one (without a professional camera crew in tow,) buy a lottery ticket. It's 2023.
Who is Toronto’s ‘french toast guy’ white tablecloth dining on the TTC subway? https://t.co/YaFbC5gOgK— Star GTA (@StarGTANews) January 16, 2023
While my spidey senses convinced me to hold off on covering what would normally have been a fun, quirky local news story, I couldn't stop thinking about French toast guy.
Why was he doing this? Is he literally saying, "I love French toast" in one of those videos? Didn't I see that guy in a Bell commercial five years ago?
Consumed with curiosity, I started searching my inbox for anything related to the popular brunch dish.
Lo and behold, a press release had been sent out by the fast food chain Wendy's exactly one week before people started sending me TTC French toast guy vids on Instagram.
"Rise and Shine, Canada! Wendy's Toasts the New Year with NEW Homestyle French Toast Sticks" reads the title of that Jan. 4 release.
"Breakfast lovers can toast to a brighter year of better breakfast by ordering the all-new Homestyle French Toast Sticks as a 4 or 6-piece menu item," stated the email. "A flavourful way to sweeten up any morning routine."
Toast Sticks, but make them bilingual 👩🍳— Wendy's 🇨🇦 (@WendysCanada) January 11, 2023
Our new Homestyle French Toast Sticks are here, get yours today! 😋 pic.twitter.com/a4IAjo6ryF
After seeing this, I contacted Wendy's Canada to ask, point blank, if they were behind the TTC French toast guy's behaviour. They replied this afternoon, neither confirming nor denying that it was some sort of guerilla marketing stunt... which I'm taking as confirmation.
"Hi Lauren. Ah, the elusive French Toast Guy. We cannot yet confirm or deny Wendy's was behind it," wrote a Wendy's spokesperson by email, including a winky-face emoji at the end of their sentence.
"Those Wendy's Homestyle French Toast Sticks look mighty delicious though, don't they!"
I mean, I'm not a French toast person myself, but people on Twitter seem to like the new morning-only breakfast offering. Thousands upon thousands more have expressed sentiments of amusement, surprise and delight upon seeing videos of the man who ate French toast across Toronto's public transit system.
Their opinions may change now that they know the guy is simply shilling for a huge corporation — or maybe not.
Maybe they'll simply be impressed by how far this all went before somebody sniffed out the truth behind French toast guy. I know I am.
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