If you don’t spend a lot of time online (especially on Twitter), you probably live a life of bliss and mental wellbeing. You also may have missed “Nachogate.”
Nachogate has broken the Internet, and we have all the details, as we were one of the people who enabled the breakage.
It’s a story both confounding and profound, a story both about Las Vegas but also the world we currently live in. It’s a story of nachos and social media virality and copious WTF and happy endings. Sort of our sweet spot, so let’s go.
The Nachogate saga began with a simple, seemingly innocuous Tweet.
Yes, we still call X Twitter and Tweets what they are, Tweets.
The Tweet that launched a million jokes was posted on Jan. 22, 2024, a day that will live infamy, especially for Fontainebleau, the casino resort that opened on Dec. 13, 2023.
What many missed is the post was made by a casino executive, Mike Herman. Herman is the Director of Slot Operations at the off-Strip Rio casino. The plot already starts to thicken.
When the Tweet went live, we were tagged (as we often are), but didn’t think much of it. We see dozens of Tweets a week from disgruntled customers talking about their experiences at various Las Vegas casinos.
We eventually shared it, noting the item might need to be renamed.
They should probably call it something else. Maybe Adobo Poulet Smidgens.™️ https://t.co/8B2QELwv2C
— Vital Vegas (@VitalVegas) January 23, 2024
Prior to that, and unbeknownst to us, Herman’s Tweet caught the eye of another Vegas Twitter account, @LasVegasLocally.
Fontainebleau will sell you 6 nachos for 24 bucks https://t.co/CaR15oyoKa
— Las Vegas Locally 🌴 (@LasVegasLocally) January 23, 2024
The price of the dish is actually $21 (Locally was told $24 by Herman), but Locally kicked Nachogate into high gear by, well, dubbing it “Nachogate.”
Fontainebleau’s response (the next day) was laughable (not in a good way) and a cut-and-paste response, as is typical for casinos: “Hello, Mike. We are disappointed to hear that you waited an hour for your meal, and we value your feedback regarding this menu item. Our priority is ensuring an elevated dining experience for every guest. If you would like to discuss what happened, please DM us with further information.”
We’ve been talking for the last year about the underwhelming use of social marketing by Fontainebleau, this was case in point.
Over the next couple of days, Nachogate picked up even more steam. Which was our clue to do whatever it is we do. Namely, chiming in with smartassery. Otherwise known as “making this about us.”
Specifically, we made some suggestions for how Fontainebleau might respond to their Twitter humiliation.
Yes, some people thought these were from Fontainebleau. Our jokes aren’t for everyone.
While poking funs of our friends at Fontainebleau, we actually did provide a number of potential crisis management strategies, including using levity to try and lighten the mood about the mounting criticisms.
Humor fixes everything! Except romantic relationships. Women claim they love funny guys, but apparently it can get old. Allegedly.
What a great opportunity to acknowledge some recent challenges at the resort, and to cleverly wink at conspiracy theorists who might suspect Nachogate was a clever diversion.
This one required the most brain power.
Anyway, our fake Fontainebleau messages garnered hundreds of thousands of impressions, and the ongoing conversation inspired other Las Vegas venues to start sharing their nachos.
Having trouble looking away? 👀
Order our Victory Nachos platter and indulge in loaded, incredibly crunchy tortilla chips! 🤤
— Victory Burger & Wings Co (@victoryburgerlv) January 14, 2024
We dug into our archives and started sharing nachos from a number of Las Vegas restaurants as well. Vegas fans shared their favorites, too.
— Vital Vegas (@VitalVegas) January 24, 2024
Annoyingly, Locally scooped us (yes, we are very thankful he doesn’t have a blog) by sharing Fontainebleau’s Tavern restaurant had updated its nachos, so we couldn’t resist dropping in to Fontainebleau to check out the infamous nachos for ourself. The sacrifices we make for you.
— Las Vegas Locally 🌴 (@LasVegasLocally) January 25, 2024
We visited Tavern and tried a revisited version of the infamous nachos, they were delicious.
It’s hard to tell the scale in a photo, but it’s a lot.
There are also things that come on the side. We aren’t entirely sure which food group they belong in, other than “not on our nachos, thanks.”
While at Tavern, we spoke with Robert Parekh, the restaurant’s General Manager.
Parekh was affable and taking the entire episode in stride, and the nachos were definitely the main topic of conversation around the bar at Tavern.
Parekh and his team are as baffled by the nacho kerfuffle as many have been. He said the venue was attempting to do twists on traditional bar food, and the dish in question was tapas-style, basically tostadas. All the ingredients are the same in the retooled version, but just presented in a different way, with more chips and guacamole.
Tavern has been selling an unprecedented number of nachos since Nachogate, and ironically, a number of guests have expressed disappointment then didn’t get the original presentation (presumably so they could take photos to share on social media).
Parekh says in good humor, “We can still make them the old way.” Here’s the interview if you can’t wait to hear it on our podcast. Yes, we have a podcast.
As mentioned, the nachos are great, and Nachogate has probably run its course. Nothing really lasts more than 72 hours on Twitter.
While this story seems trivial at first glance, we are here to provide more context and insight based upon years of being immersed in social media, social marketing, the casino and restaurant business, as well as substantial experience in armchair quarterbacking. Here are three factors that drove the Nachogate extravaganza.
First, the virality.
This episode was about much more than a plate of nachos. It tapped into a growing frustration about the changing perception of Las Vegas as a value destination. The original post was emblematic of declining service levels in Las Vegas, along with a growing chorus of guests saying they’re being nickel-and-dimed whenever they visit.
These are serious issues, and the powers that be in Las Vegas are ignoring them because business has been so good coming out of the pandemic. The tide is turning, however, and the fact Las Vegas has lost its monopoly on gambling (due to gambling being legalized across the country) is about to take center stage again. Visitation has already flattened, and there’s more supply than demand.
Second, the perception of Fontainebleau.
The very expensive and luxurious resort has struggled right out of the gate, and the nachos fed into the ongoing narrative of poor decisions and being tone deaf to customers and the marketplace.
Third, the state of the world.
How does something like Nachogate become so explosive, being seen and commented upon by millions of people?
In layperson’s terms, social media is batshit crazy.
Americans are idle and spoiled and we are easily distracted by nonsense, rather than investing our passion and resources into important things that actually matter.
We didn’t use Twitter to raise money for cancer research or homelessness, we used it to make jokes and poke fun at a casino. We didn’t visit an animal shelter to adopt a dog, we went to Fontainebleau to take photos of nachos.
Ridicule and negativity have become more popular than positivity and being constructive. It’s been well-documented that social media platforms show people more of what they pay attention to, and they pay attention to things that evoke emotion. Things that get people riled up inspire them to respond, to chime in, to like and subscribe.
Nobody cares about positive Yelp reviews, they want to read the ones where customers tear restaurants a new one.
We’re as guilty of this as anyone, of course. Negative reviews always get more eyeballs than positive ones. Not just a few more, exponentially more.
There is never going to be a “Meatgate” at Tavern, despite the fact their Butchers Steak is incredible and a strong value for $38. It even comes with awesome fries. Who’s going to share that? Boring.
Essentially, algorithms are distorting reality and we’re all doomed. We always deliver on our headlines.
Speaking of menus, we hate that Tavern has a menu on its site, but there are no prices. This doesn’t help with the perception prices are unduly elevated.
There’s another point that’s worth mentioning, and it’s awkward. Fontainebleau is doing a terrible job of social marketing. Example?
Shortly before we wrote this story, Fontainebleau shared a Tweet. It’s simply terrible, a huge wasted opportunity. Casinos steadfastly refuse to hire writers, leaving infinity dollars on the table.
The Tavern menu was designed to be “bar food favorites, all grown up.” We hope you’ll excuse our growing pains while the nachos went through their awkward phase. We’re thrilled to report they’ve matured into one stacked snack. pic.twitter.com/CIibhiGMrQ
— Fontainebleau Las Vegas (@fblasvegas) January 25, 2024
Fontainebleau, like so many casinos, doesn’t take social marketing seriously, and continues to flounder when it should be using social to create an engaging tone and conveying the personality for the resort. At the moment, the personality is an empty casino, an executive exodus, a poodle, a bowtie and looming layoffs.
Fontainebleau should’ve been responding to this viral story all along the way with charm and wit and humility and creativity. Fontainebleau needs to get in the game.
The story is being told by everyone but Fontainebleau, including, wait for it, TMZ.
Instead, Fontainebleau let idiots like us tell the story. (The Las Vegas Review-Journal is expected to “break” the news sometime in mid-2025.)
Corporate blogs, by the way, are one of the best investments a casino or any other business can make. And, no, we are not available.
Nachogate could be a white paper about how social media virality happens (they don’t result from meetings about how to make things viral), and a scholarly treatise about how we collectively need to re-examine our priorities. Less sports, more books.
We’ll leave you with a parting thought from one of our fake Fontainebleau ads.
Oh, and which restaurants serve your favorite nachos in Las Vegas?
Note: Asking questions is Social Marketing 101 to increase engagement. It’s weak, but it works. You’re welcome, Fontainebleau.