Keith Lee’s TikTok food tour of BR is on. Here’s what it could do for local business

Wildly popular TikTok food critic Keith Lee on Monday announced that he’s coming to Baton Rouge for his next food tour, and that’s big news for the Capital City’s culinary scene.

For those unfamiliar, Lee travels from city to city and visits restaurants that his viewers recommend—primarily small mom-and-pop eateries that could use the exposure his videos offer. He currently has over 16.3 million followers on TikTok and posted his first review of Fork N Spoon on Brightside Drive around midnight. 

Restaurants that receive favorable reviews from Lee often see an immediate and sizable boost in business—a phenomenon that has been dubbed the “Keith Lee Effect.” His food tours have become highly sought after for culinary scenes across the country.

The comment section of his announcement video was flooded with restaurant recommendations before he officially kicked off his tour this week. One local eatery that’s getting a lot of love is Roul’s Deli, a family-owned business with four locations in the Capital Region.

Sara Saymeh, co-owner of Roul’s Deli, says she would love for Lee to drop by.

“If Keith Lee were to come to us, I think it would bring us a lot of customers from outside of Baton Rouge,” Saymeh says. “We would really appreciate it.”

Even if Roul’s Deli doesn’t end up being a stop on Lee’s food tour, Saymeh says she’d be just as content seeing other Baton Rouge restaurants featured on his platform.

“There are a lot of great restaurants in Baton Rouge that do really need the attention that he would bring,” she says. “Regardless of if he comes to us, him coming to any restaurant in Baton Rouge would make us happy.”

Lee’s videos follow a consistent formula in which he describes his ordering experience before rating menu items on a scale from one to 10. His family members tend to place takeout orders on his behalf to ensure that he doesn’t receive preferential treatment from restaurant owners.

Laura Cating, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Baton Rouge, says she’s well aware of what Lee can do for a city’s culinary scene.

“Keith Lee’s influence has been proven repeatedly with mom-and-pop restaurants in so many cities benefiting from his reviews,” Cating says. “His brief taste tests from the front seat of his car have resulted in lines around the block for family-owned restaurants across the country.”

Cating agrees with Saymeh that a considerable number of Baton Rouge restaurants are deserving of Lee’s spotlight.

“Baton Rouge has so many incredible restaurants that could really benefit from his influence,” she says. “We’re excited to see what gems he’ll help people discover.”

This story originally appeared in a June 12 issue of Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.