Heart Attack Grill is one of the most unusual restaurants in America, one that is so outrageous in concept that it almost feels like a gimmick. Proudly serving unhealthy food that will supposedly give you a heart attack; here are some more untold truths of the Heart Attack Grill – part 2!
10. The restaurant owner proudly displayed a dead customer’s remains on TV
In Oct 2013, in a sensational publicity stunt, Heart Attack Grill’s outspoken founder-and-owner, Jon Basso, placed a bag of a dead customer’s remains on the table during a television interview. Mid-conversation with the host of Bloomberg’s ‘In the Loop with Betty Liu’, Basso surprised Liu by holding up a clear plastic bag filled with a gray powder-like substance which he later revealed were the cremated remains of a customer who died at his famous-infamous restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada. The shocked host questioned him if what he was saying was indeed true or just another marketing gimmick. Basso confidently replied that it was true and the person had died of a heart attack at his restaurant and he wished that more fast-food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, etc. would do the same to highlight the dangers of eating fast-food on a regular basis. While discussing Heart Attack Grill’s calorific fare that could literally kill you, Basso also audaciously stated that his restaurant was for ‘avant-garde of risk-takers.’ This statement is supported by the big neon sign in the restaurant that states that people weighing 350 pounds or more can eat for free! Multiple customers have died at the restaurant, including two spokespeople. One was John Alleman, who famously dined at the restaurant every single day, and collapsed at the bus stop right outside the restaurant. His cremated remains are publicly displayed in the restaurant. Though it may seem morbid, Basso in his own ironical way seems to be trying to encourage people to eat healthy by joking about the dangers of the food at his restaurant.
9. Change.org once filed a petition against the restaurant for its gimmicky advertising
Heart Attack Grill is no stranger to lawsuits, petitions and protests. And that shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone since the restaurant openly states that its food might actually give you a heart attack. In 2010, the famous American petition website, Change.org, started a petition against Heart Attack Grill’s gimmick of offering their calorie-laden Double Bypass Burgers and Flatliner Fries to customers weighing 350 pounds and over for free. The petition was reportedly issued by the organization’s Sustainable Food Department stating that the restaurant was undermining America’s then-prevalent health crisis with their latest unhealthy promotion. A lot of people signed the petition and supported Change.org’s crusade against the restaurant. But many even empathized with Heart Attack Grill’s latest shocking gimmick understanding that at least the restaurant was being honest about its deadly food. Customers were made aware of the health risks posed by the restaurant’s fatty food even if it was by means of sarcastic and intentionally funny tactics. A large section of those who did not sign the petition agreed that Heart Attack Grill was actually putting the focus back onto American fast-food chains that blatantly disregarded the health of customers by serving up an extremely unhealthy fare without disclosing the harmful effects that the food might have on them. Many believed that Heart Attack Grill was only offering an insanely large, almost comical, portion of regular fast-food fare that most Americans consume on a regular basis. They argued that what is supposed to be an occasional treat or indulgence has now become a regular phenomenon.
8. Everyone is in costume at the Heart Attack Grill – customers too!
While there are many serious issues related to the Heart Attack Grill, it cannot be denied that the restaurant is extremely popular. By the owner’s own admission, there are lines outside the door on most days. And why not? With so many gimmicks, tricks and cheeky advertising, customers are attracted by the droves to this restaurant. And one of the most interesting and unique concepts of Heart Attack Grill is its hospital theme. The Heart Attack Grill is a hospital themed restaurant in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada that brazenly promotes calorie-laden food like giant hamburgers, fattening fries, rich milkshakes and other such unhealthy food. The hospital theme of the restaurant is evident in the nurse costumes donned by the waitresses and the doctor’s coats worn by the cooks. While the cook uniforms are nothing much to comment about, it is the nurse costumes worn by the waitresses that have been the subject of many a controversy in the past. The nurse outfits are quite risqué and considered skimpy by a nurses’ group in Arizona where the first outlet of Heart Attack Grill was opened in 2005. But the restaurant soon moved its location to ‘sin city’ Las Vegas where such costumes did not even warrant a second look. The wait staff at Heart Attack Grill now wears revealing nurse outfits complete with stethoscopes and prescription pads. Customer orders are called ‘prescriptions’ and customers are referred to as ‘patients’. Cooks who prepare the artery-clogging food are called ‘doctors’ and waitresses are called ‘nurses’. Everybody in the restaurant is in costume, including the customers, who are given a hospital gown to wear upon entering the restaurant. Customers can even opt to get a spanking if they don’t finish their meal. All these gimmicks add to the overall appeal of the restaurant.
7. The owner is present at the restaurant every day, flipping burgers!
Most fast-food restaurants are chain restaurants, meaning that their owners are mostly huge corporations that rarely care about getting to know their customers. Painting quite a contrary picture to a typical American fast-food restaurant is the owner of the Heart Attack Grill. The restaurant’s website claims that the controversial owner of this equally controversial Las Vegas restaurant, Dr. Jon Basso, can be found at the restaurant every single day. They further add that he is present in the kitchen, at the griddle, actually flipping burgers in his doctor’s costume! How’s that for personal attention?! Dr. Jon, who is a non-AMA recognized physician, once owned a string of fitness studios and actively promoted weight loss. Per various reports, during the process of writing a marketing thesis, he came upon the idea of starting a restaurant that served food that was loaded with calories. The idea worked and after some teething problems in Arizona, the restaurant attained much fame once it relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada. But just like his restaurant, Basso himself also has been in the news several times. Most recently, in early 2019, a waitress in his restaurant accused him of sexual harassment. He has also declared himself as a ‘nutritional pornographer’ by serving food so bad that it’s shocking. The ambitious restaurateur has also been in the news for positive ventures like trying to reboot the burger and movie drive-thru concept of Big Bang Burger (now called Burger51). He has also been hailed by many as an honest fast-food restaurant owner creating awareness of the risks of eating unhealthy junk food.
6. The restaurant owner once threatened to open a live fire hose on a group of protestors!
As mentioned earlier, the restaurant and its owner have both been the subject of many controversies. From petitions filed by Change.org to protest by nursing associations, Heart Attack Grill has had to continuously defend itself from various allegations. The most remarkable of these was in 2006 when the Arizona Attorney General’s Office publicly threatened closure of the Heart Attack Grill. The controversy started because of a complaint filed by the State Board of Nursing. They had taken offence to the sexualized use of the nurse’s outfits worn by the waitresses of the restaurant. It was reported that many people in the nursing profession, including a national nursing group, had complained to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, that their repeated attempts at asking the Heart Attack Grill owner to stop using nurse outfits had fallen on deaf ears. Thus, in September 2006, the Attorney General’s Office informed Dr. Jon Basso that the usage of the word ‘nurse’ at his restaurant and on his website was illegal. Citing a state statute, it was noted that the title ‘nurse’ could only be used by someone who actually had a valid nursing license. In response, it is reported that the restaurant owner, Basso, threatened to turn a live fire hose on any member of the nursing profession distributing leaflets outside the restaurant. He was even alleged to have been arrested for this action. This piece of news attained wide-ranging media coverage, reportedly in over 60 countries! And the media frenzy is said to have lasted for months. Finally, Dr. Jon released a disclaimer on his website in effect stating that the use of the word ‘nurse’ was only intended as a parody. He added that none of his staff was trained in any form of medical services and they did not claim to provide any sort of medical treatments.
5. Heart Attack Grill has been the ‘most-searched Internet term’ several times
Being no stranger to controversy, the Heart Attack Grill has had the distinction of being the ‘most-searched Internet term’ several times in the past. Beginning in 2010, the restaurant made headlines due to its series of satirical commercials featuring its 575-pound spokesman, Blair River. The restaurant’s owner described River as ‘the creative genius behind several of the restaurant’s promotions.’ But the spokesman’s life was cut short at the age of 29 when he died in 2011. He died of pneumonia but his obesity was surely put in the spotlight and Heart Attack Grill faced much flak for promoting its calorie-rich food through River. The spokesman’s death put the Heart Attack Grill on the number 1 spot on the Internet only to be eclipsed by the tsunami in Japan the next week. In 2012, Heart Attack Grill rose to prominence on the Internet once again because of health risks faced by two of its customers within a span of two months. One customer suffered a massive heart attack and died on the restaurant premises, and another one was rushed to the hospital by emergency services. In 2013, the restaurant became a global news item when another spokesman, John Alleman, died of a heart attack right outside the restaurant.
4. The restaurant menu is truly a ‘Heart Attack on a Plate’!
The brazenly unhealthy menu advertised at the Heart Attack Grill is true to its moniker – a heart attack on a plate. The cheeseburgers at the restaurant have morbid names like Single, Double, Triple, Quadruple, Pendruple, Sextuple, Septuple and Octuple Bypass burgers, each representing the number of patties present in the burger. The burger buns are grilled with lard and the cheese, bacon and veggies portions are equally generous. Burger accompaniments like Flatliner Fries are deep-fried in pure lard. Their ButterFat Shakes boast of the world’s highest butterfat content that can be mixed in with 4 ounces of whipped-cream flavored vodka. Besides this, wine, cola, and beer are also available. No side salads or light beer are in sight anywhere in the restaurant! While it is reported that the restaurant’s Quadruple Bypass burger has around 8000 calories and poses a high risk of heart-related issues like diabetes, high cholesterol, stroke or a heart attack, the restaurant staff claims that nobody is sure about the exact calorie count of the burger. All publicity gimmicks aside, regular consumption of food at the Heart Attack Grill will surely give you a massive heart attack!
3. They have a lot of cheeky taglines everywhere!
For a restaurant that ironically mocks the unhealthy eating habits of Americans, there are a lot of ingenious puns and cheeky taglines everywhere – from the exterior windows through the posters on the walls to the restaurant menu. At the entrance of the outlet in Las Vegas, there is a sign that states ‘Fighting anorexia since 2005’. Another sign on the door daringly announces ‘Cash only, because you might die before the check clears!’ Inside the restaurant, the décor is reminiscent of Americana, with film posters, staff dressed in gimmicky uniforms and an all-round fun atmosphere. The restaurant’s menu reads ‘Cash only, plus 8.1 percent sales tax for our wasteful government to squander.’ There’s even a giant Heart Attack Grill-style ‘Last Supper’ oil mural on a wall of the restaurant that features Dr. Jon Basso, the restaurant owner, surrounded by his ‘supposed’ 12 disciples that includes the whos-who of the fast-food business – everyone from Ronald McDonald to the star from Carl’s Jr. to Wendy from Wendy’s! Though the creator of this mural is unknown, it attracts quite a lot of attention from the patrons. The restaurant’s motto sums up the theme of this restaurant ‘Taste Worth Dying For.’ Needless to say, there are cheeky posters and taglines everywhere in this restaurant!
2. The Heart Attack Grill has been featured on several TV shows
Thanks to its controversial theme, outspoken owner and creative advertising, the Heart Attack Grill has attained worldwide fame. And with its strategic location in the heart of sin city, practically every visitor to Las Vegas knows about this restaurant. Customer deaths have also added to the hype of the restaurant. Thus, many television and news shows have been attracted to the Heart Attack Grill. The Heart Attack Grill has been featured on several networks, both in America and internationally. It was showcased on ‘World’s Weirdest Restaurants’ on Food Network Canada, ‘Extreme Pig-outs’ on the Travel Channel, ‘7 Deadly Sins’ on Showtime, ‘Fluffy Breaks Even’ on Hulu and History Channel’s ‘All You Can Eat’. Several news reports on CBS and ABC and the Middle East broadcaster, MBC, have also featured the restaurant.
1. The only restaurant in America telling you that their food is bad for you
Heart Attack Grill has often been accused of promoting unhealthy eating, but it has never made any claims to saying anything otherwise. In fact, the restaurant clearly mentions the risks posed by the consumption of its calorie-rich food. According to the owner, they caution people at the door while all other fast-food restaurants sugarcoat how bad their food is for the customers’ health. The restaurant owner states that they attract ‘avant-garde of risk-takers’, people who do not actually care about their health; the ones who look at a 9,993-calorie burger and actually want to eat it. He states that this says more about the customers than the restaurant. The restaurant makes no qualms about advertising the fact that their food is bad for you, and is probably the only restaurant in America doing so.