After one man had lost all hope in fulfilling his life-long dream of running a successful restaurant, a stranger online stepped in to change his luck and show off the power of social media. Here's their story.
With the increased uptake of social media, many argue that it has led to increased internet toxicity and negative messages. Others, however, have recognized its powers and potential for good.
Along with the rise of TikTok has come a prominent trend highlighting the app's positive aspects. Influencers use the app to gather the attention of their followers and then ask them to help a stranger out. The following story was an incredible, heartwarming example of this.
Frank Steele came to Las Vegas with a 30+ year dream of setting up his own restaurant. He roped in all of his family to help, and after much hard work, sweat and tears, they were finally ready to open the first-ever shop: Frankensons. The menu included chicken wings, pizza, fries, and more.
Frank believed that their food was delicious and was confident that would be enough to attract customers. They opened their doors and waited excitedly for the customers to come flooding in. They hadn't been able to pay for marketing due to the already high start-up costs, but they still had faith they would do well.
After hours of watching the door hopefully, Frank was devastated to see they had no customers coming in. Over the next few days, a few customers trickled in, but their best day had totaled just $400 dollars - barely covering the costs. The business was not running as the family had hoped it would.
Before establishing the restaurant, Frank and his family had put much thought into every aspect. From the perfect location to a diverse menu, they were confident they had given it their best shot. Frank feared that he had invested his life savings into a dead-end dream and that they would be forced to shut down.
A Plan Is Hatched
Seeing her boss, Frank, so disheartened, Summer, an employee at Frankensons, decided she had to try and help. She racked her brain over what she could do for him, but with her own limited funds, she was restricted in her abilities. Then she remembered something which triggered a hopeful thought...
Summer had spent a fair amount of time on TikTok and had seen numerous videos of generous influencers. She remembered how these users had changed people's lives through the support of their followers, and this sparked an idea. She knew it might not work - but they had nothing to lose at this point.
Sending a Message
Summer reached out to some food critics on TikTok and asked them to help Frank and his restaurant. She explained that while the food was delicious, they were not getting many customers and could not afford their rent. She told the TikTokers that they believed it was all because of a lack of marketing.
As a result of this, she explained, an influencer would greatly help bridge this gap if they came and reviewed the food, marketing it in the process. Summer promised them Frank would be in the dark on the whole plan to ensure it was an accurate, natural representation of their restaurant experience.
Anticipating a Response
The Frankensons employee waited anxiously by her computer, constantly checking for responses. When one influencer replied that she would charge $2,600 for the visit and review, she was extremely disappointed. Of course, they could not afford that at this time.
She had really hoped, like all those videos she had seen, that an influencer would agree to do the review out of the goodness of their heart. Where were all these influencers that she knew helped people out for free? Was this all a lie? Just as she started to lose hope, she received a response that would change everything…
The man who had replied was TikTok influencer and food critic, Keith Lee. The former Bellator MMA fighter set up his account on the video-sharing platform back in 2020, seeing it as a potential remedy for his social anxiety and interview discomfort. At first, his content focused on his family life.
As he continued to build up his followers, his content evolved simultaneously. With his wife's pregnancy cravings varying wildly, he began to document them and venture into the world of food TikTok. After appearing on the People vs. Food YouTube series, he decided to focus on food reviews which boosted him to fame.
Not His First Time
A hopeful thought for the entire Frankensons team was that Keith had a particularly positive record in creating viral-restaurant-related content. In December 2022, Keith shared and tested a Chipotle hack discovered by another food-critic influencer named Alexis Frost.
Titled the "Philly cheesesteak," the makeshift dish was comprised of a stake quesadilla with extra cheese and fajita veggies. After adding vinegarette for more flavor, he rated it a 9.8/10 and described it as "the crossover [he] never knew [he] needed." Days later, the viral buzz caused the dish to be added to the chain's menu.
Put to the Test
Upon receiving the message from Summer, Lee was intrigued by the restaurant's concept and proposal and agreed to come and try out the food for himself. Summer had mentioned in the email that the restaurant would be happy to provide the food for free, but Lee insisted on paying.
Lee also rejected payment for the potential advertisement. "This taste test is to really see: Is it really only because of the marketing, or is the food bad? Or is the service bad?" he explained this to his followers in one of his videos. To be unbiased, he felt he had to do it for free.
Moment of Truth
In true influencer style, Keith made sure to document the entire experience on his TikTok channel for all his followers to follow along. "Yesterday afternoon, I got an email from an employee of a family-owned restaurant here in Vegas," he revealed in a clip dated January 3rd, 2023.
"I got it. Let's try it and rate it 1-10. I spent $86.73," Keith continued. He then summarized for his followers what had been written in the email and gave some background to the family business. He emphasized their belief that the failure was due to a lack of marketing. But was it really?
"I can tell you right now, the service is not bad at all," he said in reference to his earlier question. "I called my order in, and the person who took it was Frank, who happens to be the owner of the restaurant. Frank was so dope. He took his time, he was patient."
Keith explained that after paying for the order with the cashier, Frank offered him a free drink with his order. "He had no idea who I was. He walked up to me and stared me right in the eyes and asked, 'what do you do?'" After Keith nervously informed him he was a food reviewer, the two began to discuss the business.
Talking to local news station KTNV, Steele gave his version of events and why he had approached this customer in such a friendly manner. "I had this guy come in and didn't know who he was, and I started talking to him because I like talking to all my customers," he explained.
"I asked him where he was from and what he did for work, and that's when he said he was a food critic." After Frank asked Keith to review their restaurant, he informed him that he would do so but would need to be entirely honest about his thoughts. "I told him I need help," Frank admitted.
Ranking the Food
But would Keith like the food? What would he think of it? The moment of truth had finally arrived, and first up was the garlic knots. "These look amazing," he said before tucking in. "Boy, there are some red chilly flakes on there that make it spicy. I was not expecting it to be spicy. That is delicious 9.2/10, starting high."
Next up was the peach chutney wings, a first of its kind for Keith. "That is a delicious wing," he admitted with his mouth still full. "It's sweet, it's saucy, that's a 9/10." One-half of the classic Italian sub followed. "Frank, this is delicious. It's spicy, it's salty. 9.6/10."
Continuing the review, Keith tried the lemon pepper sauce chicken wings, which had him stopping in his tracks. "This is one of the best wings I've ever had, this is a 10," he said to the camera with a stunned impression. He then proceeded to give the all-American burger a 9.2/10.
The small classic white pizza was awarded an 8.9/10 and described by Keith as a "classic, delicious, thin crust pizza, really garlicky." Last but not least was the small classic pepperoni pizza. "Boy, I swear this is why I started making videos like this because places like this that nobody knows of. This is a 9.8/10."
Knowing that people rely on him and trust him because of his honest critique, Keith did not shy away from mentioning his less favorable items on the menu. He was unimpressed by the ranch sauce, which he described as "too bitter." He also rated the fries a 2/10 because "they don't really taste like nothing."
All in all, Frank concluded with a clear verdict. "I'm gonna wholeheartedly agree with the employee here. Frank, from me to you, there is no way you should be behind on rent or struggling to pay rent. It is marketing. That food is delicious, and the service is amazing."
Within hours of Keith's video being posted, it was already spreading like wildfire. People loved hearing the story of the man who dedicated his life to his dream restaurant - and moreover, they adored seeing the relationship between the two men. Frank was so lovable, and people were so happy to hear and share his story.
Later that day, Frankensons posted a message on their Facebook page to thank everyone for their support. "Thank you to everyone who has shared Keith Lee's TikTok!! And thank you, especially to Keith Lee!" they wrote. Soon, the post's comments section was filled with many more sending over their love and encouragement.
Users Weigh In
"I am so happy for you all and this much-deserved success. To see such great people rewarded for their hard work is so wonderful. You will be my first stop on my next trip to Vegas. Can't wait to get out there!" one comment read. "I hope frank gets all the business he deserves," wrote another.
"Keith is awesome!" a user commented, acknowledging Keith's selfless contribution towards the restaurant's success. "Bless Keith for his unbiased report," agreed another. Everyone else couldn't help but get emotional over the heartwarming story, describing it as "adorable and "wonderful."
The video wasn't just being shared for people to enjoy the story. People were taking Lee's words to heart and going to check out the restaurant for themselves. They wanted to taste these 10/10 wings and 9.8/10 pepperoni pizzas. If Keith was so impressed, they had to get their hands on them.
To Frank's delight, customers were continuously rushing through the restaurant doors. By the end of the day on January 3rd, everything had changed. People were now lining up at the door, patiently waiting for their turn to put in their orders. According to Keith, it would be worth the wait.
24 Hour Update
Twenty-four hours after his original post, Keith returned to his TikTok page to update his followers on the progress of the restaurant campaign. "Yesterday, I did a review. Today, CHAOS," he opened the video. "For starters, when I discovered their TikTok, they were at 2000 followers. Now, 70,000 in less than 24 hours."
Lee attached a video compilation of visitors at the restaurant, all crediting Keith for bringing them down to Frankensons. "10 am till 5 pm, there was a line out the door! I knew he would have some business, but I never thought it would be that magnitude," he admitted.
In addition to all those who came to the store in person, people were rushing to the food-delivering apps to send in their virtual orders. The phone lines were also being filled back-to-back, with customers attempting to skip the lines and place orders from the comfort of their own homes.
"Our phone never stopped ringing. I've sold more lemon pepper wings in the last two days than I have in the past four months. I made more garlic knots yesterday and the day before than I've ever made," Steele told KTNV with tears in his eyes. His dream had come true.
From Near & Far
It wasn't just the local Vegas residents that were making the trip down to Frankensons. To Frank's shock and delight, people were coming from all over the country! "I had people coming in from Iowa, people from California, I had a family come up from Lake Havasu, people come down from Utah," the owner told KTNV.
Some people even wrote on the Facebook page that they were planning to go to Vegas, especially for Frankensons. "Now I have a reason to go to Vegas!" one person exclaimed. "I'm from Tulsa, Okla, and I think it's time for another Vegas trip!! See u soon, Mr. Frank," another soon-to-be-customer wrote.
But once the initial excitement had died down, things took a turn for the worse when Frank and his family were unable to keep up with the overwhelming demand and ran out of product. Taking to their TikTok page, they apologized for the increased wait times and the premature closing.
They were also forced to block all orders from the online ordering apps. "We apologize for the inconvenience to anyone who came in today and had to wait for a long period of time," Frankensons wrote in the social media post. They begged their customers to be patient with them.
"Please remember that we went from a small customer flow to an overwhelming amount of customers OVERNIGHT following an amazing TikTok review from Keith Lee," they continued in their public announcement. They emphasized to their customers that their success hadn't been a slow progression.
Rather, due to Lee's video, it had exploded, and they were not prepared in the ways necessary to increase supply. They were forever grateful to Lee and the influx of stranger kindness, of course - but it would take them time to build up the staff and product needed to meet demand.
The Frankensons staff were relieved to see that their slower pace hadn't put anyone off from visiting them. People continued to visit, sharing their experiences on social media immediately after and spreading the news further. Every single review seemed to confirm everything Keith had claimed.
"We went last night Jenn Quill visiting from Virginia and Timothy Eugene Jackson ...and let me tell you!!! It's the BOMB!!" read one satisfied customer review. "We were the last people allowed in because they were BEAT!! Frank is just adorable!! Be patient... it's worth it... be kind and be generous... they are awesome!!"
In his 24-hour update, Keith recalled to his fans how he had visited Frank the day after his post and was shocked to see the crowds. Most importantly, he mentioned how grateful the restaurant owner had been. "He thanked me like 100 times, non-stop. Gave me the biggest hug and shook my hand like 1000 times."
"The response has been so overwhelming," Steele told KNTV. "I'm working to get stocked up on supplies and food. I am bringing everyone in to help. All I can say is thank you. This has been life-changing. It's just been overwhelming. It's been a blessing. This restaurant has been a dream of mine for 30 years."
"This has been one of the craziest three-day spans of my entire life," Lee opened his three-day Frankensons update. "Let's talk about it. About three days ago, I posted an update about Frankenson's Pizzeria. Since then, mayhem!" He told his TikTok followers.
"I woke up this morning to my mum at the edge of my bed, my dad on the phone, and my wife screaming. We made it to the news!" he exclaimed in reference to the KTNV report. Keith embedded the press coverage, which noted the video had been viewed over 18 million times, and earned over 14 million likes.
Keith told his followers that Frank had asked him to come and join him for the recording of the news broadcast, but he said no, it wasn't about him. "That wasn't my moment. That was all him," Keith explained. "If his food wasn't good, the news wouldn't have been there."
"I told him straight up it wasn't me, it was the amazing food he served and him being nice to people. Watching him be that thankful and cry on national news was more than enough for me," Lee continued. "I think I had to be a vessel, as always. I appreciate and thank you all for being here."
Good News for Keith
Despite his selfless motives, Keith still benefited greatly from the entire experience. In the three-day update video, he excitedly told his followers that he had secured his first big brand deal. "God is amazing!" he exclaimed. The TikToker was also ecstatic to see he was trending on Twitter.
Last but not least, the food critic influencer had become a meme over the past few days, something he noted he never believed would happen. "I never thought I'd be scrolling down my 'for you' page and see someone been making a video about me. I appreciate you all. I don't take none of this lightly," he promised his fans.
In his fourth-day video update, Keith revealed to his followers that he had been trying to get hold of Frank ever since the news story broke in order to thank him. After being unable to get through, he went down to the restaurant to check out the situation and couldn't believe his eyes.
"I see why!" he recorded from outside the store. "The line goes all the way back there!" he announced in shock before heading into the store. "I'm not doing Uber Eats because you guys are more important!" Frank could be heard telling his cheering customers. "I just wanted to come and say hi!" Lee told Steele in disbelief.
Coming Full Circle
As the perfect conclusion to this whirlwind viral phenomenon, Keith and follower @beauty2thestreetz headed over to Frankensons to extend the good deed one step further. They decided to purchase ten pizzas from Frank and hand them out to the homeless people in the area.
The next day, they returned one more time to order fifty more pizzas for the homeless. With the line building up outside, Keith offered cash to those in line to thank them for their patience. While most fans were delighted to see the gift that keeps on giving, others felt it was time for Frank to take a well-earned vacation!