We made it through Donald Trump’s presidency. We made it through a pandemic (mostly). We made it through T’Challa and RBG’s deaths. As a reward, Pepsi has given us the most cringeworthy thing since…well, since its ill-fated 2017 ad in which Kendall Jenner saves the world by de-wigging and handing a can of soda to an over-militarized cop.
“Pepsi Opening Fast Beverage Restaurant Pep’s Place in Your Neighborhood,” trumpets the subject line of the press release. Already, we’re guessing Pepsi’s marketing team hasn’t learned a thing in four years. But we’re assured this is a totally novel campaign, something that’s never been done before. Is it the introduction of a previously undiscovered root harvested in the Amazonian basin that provides all the benefits of tequila, THC, and your therapist, with none of the drawbacks? Is it the establishment of a comprehensive, efficient, single-payer health care system funded by the massive profits from all those bags of Fritos and bottles of Gatorade?
Nope. It’s Pep’s Place, a “ghost kitchen experience” (if by “experience” you mean the existential dread that comes with fully giving up and ordering a sloppy, second-rate cheeseburger for delivery from god-only-knows-who). You order online, and have your food and a Pepsi (possibly already nibbled on, if the surveys are to be believed) delivered to you by a third-party delivery app driver. The groundbreaking innovation? You order your beverage first.
That’s right, folks. (Long pause.) Order your drink and get a “curated” menu of burgers, sandwiches, wings, and ribs based on your beverage. In the mood for a Pepsi Mango and a cheeseburger (you’re not, but play along)? Suck it up, Todd…it’s Pepsi Mango and wings or bust, baby. What about Pepsi Zero Sugar and ribs? Dream on, Karen. Don’t you know that only chicken Caesar salad goes with a no-sugar cola? (Also, you’re clearly a lady if you’re ordering a diet drink, so Pepsi kindly provided a salad option for you.)
If you’re not convinced about the merits of this stunningly original approach, Pepsi is hoping its line of TV ads with human beings eating as if they were raised in a barn will do the trick.
Look, if we made it through murder hornets, lockdowns, and Wonder Woman 1984, we can push past a desperate attempt by a giant global brand to capitalize on ghost kitchens and “curated” anything. But for the love of Bourdain, Pepsi, make just a little effort. Everyone else: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
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