Karen's Diner brings its burgers and very rude service to Edinburgh and Glasgow

Move over Basil and Manuel, as Karen’s Diner is taking over from Fawlty Towers when it comes to bad eating out experiences.

This chain was established in 2021 in Sydney, by young entrepreneurs Aden Levin and James Farrell. The rapidly expanding concept already has ten permanent locations in Australia, one in Indonesia, another in New Zealand, four in the UK, including branches in Birmingham and Manchester, and they’ve opened their first in the US.

They’re also on tour, with Scottish dates at Edinburgh’s Biscuit Factory on February 10-12 and May 12-15, and Glasgow’s Corona Bar & Grill from February 24-26.

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Each visit involves eating burgers and playing games, while staff, in their American diner style uniform, are extremely rude to customers. You pay £40 for the privilege, with the ticket price including a two-course meal and three drinks tokens.

Karen's Diner branch Pic: Darcy Starr

“We were inspired by Karen internet memes and viral videos of people online being difficult in restaurants/retail towards staff, which we then flipped on its head to create a fun experience where the staff are rude to customers instead,” says their PR spokesperson. “We specialise in immersive and theatrical pop-ups, so that is our background.”

According to them, they chose Scotland as part of their tour after interest from Scottish customers at other locations. If the Edinburgh and Glasgow events are a success, they plan to organise other longer pop-ups in the cities. The fact that experiential eating out experiences such as ball pit cocktail bar, Ballie Ballerson, Lane 7, Roxy Lanes and Bongo’s Bingo do well in the Scottish capital might be a positive sign.

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The Karens they employ tend to have a combination of hospitality and acting experience. They are open to teasing customers about their clothes and names, and generally being pretty mean and grumpy, with plenty of eye rolling and heavy sighs.

“It's back-and-forth banter and everyone knows what they are getting into and are notified before dining,” says the PR. “Lots of laughs though. Customers give as good as they get.”

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Karen's Diner burgers Pic: Darcy Starr

As long as nobody gets carried away. The online House Rules state there will be no racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, throwing of food, sexual harassment or damage.

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However, many argue that Karen is a sexist and ageist term in itself, as it refers to a rude woman, usually middle-aged.

Levin and Farrell have no plans to change the contentious name, but they do offer an olive branch of sorts.

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“We understand some people are sometimes offended by the concept," says the company’s PR spokesperson. “However, we celebrate Karens and especially those named Karen, they even get a free drink at our restaurants.”

Karen's Diner staff Pic: Darcy Starr
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Although bad service is part of the experience, they do promise that the food – provided by the hosting venue – will be good.

Their previous menus have included breakfast burger, I Want to See the Manager Karen, which features wagyu patties, Swiss cheese, bacon, pickles, lettuce and BBQ sauce. There’s also chicken bingo wings, and cocktails such as Karen’s Aqua Aerobics.

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