Here’s Why that American TikToker is Obsessed with Wetherspoons

Mallory Bartow is surprised with how people have taken to her praise of a U.K. pub chain on TikTok

Chris Stokel-Walker
Jan 6, 2020 · 4 min read
Image: JD Wetherspoon/Mallory Bartow

When Mallory Bartow set off for a vacation in the United Kingdom over Christmas break, she didn’t expect to find herself in the eye of a viral video storm.

“I was on Christmas break from school at Louisiana State University, and we get a whole month off,” the mechanical engineering student explains. “After I graduate and get a job I’ll be relying on PTO [paid time off], so I wanted to take advantage.” Her boyfriend, who had studied at Sheffield, had family and friends living in the U.K. They found cheap flights. It was a no-brainer.

They arrived into London, and travelled to Brighton, where they headed for a Wetherspoons pub. The chain, for non-Brits, is known for its cheap, reliable food and drinks, and often-stunning surroundings (the chain converts old banks and post offices, as well as local council buildings, into pubs in city centers).

They then travelled up to Sheffield, visiting Liverpool and Chester along the way. There, they decided to eat at Wetherspoons again, vistitng the city’s Benjamin Huntsman branch. “I was really, really excited to go back, and we decided to go the next morning after we got to Sheffield,” says Bartow. “I decided to record it. I don’t think anyone else in America, unless they’ve visited, knows about this place.”

The student had downloaded TikTok as a break from her studies in late November. “I’m used to calculating all day and using my brain and being in that state of mind, and I always want to know about politics and everything that’s going on in the world,” she explains.

“That stuff can get kind of heavy a lot of times, and then I found TikTok and it’s hilarious — normal people making goofy videos. It reminded me of when I was in high school watching Vine. It’s my little escape from the heaviness of the world, this fun little environment I can go to and laugh at what’s going on.” So it was a natural choice to open up TikTok as she visited the second Spoons of her visit and document what was going on.

Bartow’s video, which extolled the virtues of refillable coffee and cheap cooked breakfasts, captured an unusual excitement for something many Brits consider every day. “It’s so frickin’ good,” she said in the video.

The video, recorded a couple of days ago, quickly took off, with 432,000 views and nearly 50,000 likes on TikTok. After being downloaded and reshared on Twitter by BBC journalist Sophia Smith Galer, the video was seen 2.2 million times off the platform. Bartow calls the success of the video “crazy”.

Smith Galer spotted the video on her ‘For You’ page on TikTok, when the video had tens of thousands of views. “The following morning it had over 200,000 and I was pleased, because I thought it was really funny,” she explains. “TikTok’s algorithm had rightly decided that I would love a video about British pub culture. I thought my mates would agree and bam.” Smith Galer shared it on Twitter, and it was picked up by the wider media.

“I’ve read some of the other articles that said TikTok-famous girl who sent this out to her followers,” she explains. “I had no following on TikTok and all of a sudden it blew up out of nowhere. I think people just appreciated the different perspective of an American appreciating the culture.”

What was more suprising was the success the video had off TikTok. “TikTok’s algorithm, people post their videos and it’s rare for them to leak out of that world,” she says.

“Honestly, I’ve seen things go viral before and the internet can be kind of mean, but it’s been overwhelmingly positive,” says Bartow. “It’s completely surprising to me. Everyone’s reaction is them embracing the culture they have and most people commenting have said ‘SPOONS’ in all caps. It has surprised me, how positive it is.”

She’s been documenting the odd quirks and differences between U.K. and U.S. culture on her TikTok, including another video about the benefits of supermarkets, including praise for the humble supermarket meal deal. And she’s not done yet.

“In my drafts I have a little snippet of every single day [I’ve been here], and I just have to do a voiceover,” she explains. “I’ve been making small little videos, and I’ve been keeping in my notes little things I find, like different words or things on the street, but I don’t have my phone on me all the time.”

That video — encapsulating Bartow’s trip — will be posted soon. Because she’s travelling from the U.S., she isn’t using roaming data on her phone. “I have to use wifi. I have a lot of stuff in my drafts to send out; I just haven’t done it yet. I’ve been having too much fun over here.”

Chris Stokel-Walker

Written by

UK-based freelancer for The Guardian, The Economist, BuzzFeed News, the BBC and more. Tell me your story, or get me to write for you: stokel@gmail.com

FFWD

FFWD

Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

Chris Stokel-Walker

Written by

UK-based freelancer for The Guardian, The Economist, BuzzFeed News, the BBC and more. Tell me your story, or get me to write for you: stokel@gmail.com

FFWD

FFWD

Getting you up to speed with the world of online video

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